< Back to blog archive

The Value of "I Dont' Know"


The Value of I Don’t Know

“The way we traditionally conceive of ignorance—as an absence of knowledge—leads us to think of education as its natural antidote. But education can produce illusory confidence.” – David Dunning

I came across a great article discussing the value of “I don’t know.” The author talks about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which shows many people don’t recognize areas where they’re deficient and many people will answer certainly and confidently based upon false knowledge. These issues are all rooted in the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

  • You don’t ask for help.
  • You make decisions with complete certainty, instead of considering the alternatives.
  • You never admit to past mistakes or learn from them going forward.

We’ve all known someone, worked with someone, or maybe are even related to someone that at least one of those three points applies to. Dunning suggests these ways to overcome this mindset, which I would also argue are all essential traits of strong leaders:

  • Be your own devil’s advocate.
  • Ask yourself how you might be wrong.
  • Imagine what could lead to failure based on your decision.
  • Seek out advice from others.

Check out the full article or read Dunning’s longer piece, We Are All Confident Idiots, in the Pacific Standard.