Sometimes, it’s OK to Feel Stupid: The Benefits of Not Having All the Answers

Elevator Pitch: From infancy, we’re rewarded for being smart. School reinforces our joy in having the right answers. But in an uncertain workplace that calls for experimentation, risk taking and continuous learning, our need to be right can hold us back. What if giving up that need to look smart is the smartest thing we can do?

Session Description: Almost from birth, we’re rewarded for being smart. Our formal education creates an addiction to being right and we’re ashamed (sometimes, even shamed by others) if we’re wrong. While it’s nice to feel smart when we get that A, certification or degree, a need to be right can be a handicap in a furiously uncertain workplace that calls for experimentation, risk taking and continuous learning.

The human brain craves certainty, or so the neuroscientists tell us. But in this changing world (VUCA anyone?) certainty is almost impossible to find. What if that’s OK? What if it’s OK not to know, not to have the answers? What if the smartest thing we can do is give up our need to be smart? What if, sometimes, it’s OK to be a little bit stupid? Can you imagine a future like that?

Join Sue in an interactive exploration of the value of not knowing, of being wrong, of making mistakes. We’ll do some playful experimentation with failure and practise shifting from “Smarty Pants” to “Curious Cat” for fun and profit.

Info for reviewers:
This is a new talk inspired by many years watching people – myself included – delay taking action, avoid trying experiments and wait to be told what to do because we want to “get it right” or avoid looking stupid. The point of the talk is that, when we’re creating products and services in today’s market, we can’t expect we’ll always know what to do. It’s impossible to have all the answers – and it wouldn’t be a good thing if we did. Curiosity and an appetite for experimentation are key attributes for today’s workplace - and fundamental in Agile work practice.

As well as personal experience gained over a long career in management and technology, content will be drawn from formal study in team coaching and from readings such as “Better By Mistake,” “Not Knowing,” and “Being Wrong.”

This session is interactive. It will be appropriate for anyone.

I'll have a pre-production version of the “Failure Toy,” designed to teach that it’s OK to learn from mistakes. (I won't be promoting it, just using it as an exercise.)


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

By the time of TAC, I will already have presented this talk at PRDC Deliver, in Winnipeg, and will tweak as needed.

I expect to use the 60 minutes as follows:
5 min – Set the stage – awesome things that came from mistakes
5 min – How we become addicted to our own rightness (exercise)
15 min – Looking at errors through a different lens (exercise)
15 min – The value of multiple hypotheses (exercise)
10 min – Get curious, not furious
5 min – Recap and call to action
5 min – Slack for questions and longer than expected discussion

Learning Outcome

Learning objectives - in this session, participants will:
1) explore principles that lead to our need to "be smart" and fear of being wrong
2) use different lenses to view mistakes
3) practise with an activity designed to disrupt our view of failure

Target Audience

Anyone will benefit, especially coaches and product folk

Prerequisites for Attendees

Anyone who interacts with others at work will benefit from this talk, There is nothing to prepare.


schedule Submitted 1 year ago

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