When It Is Good To Be Clueless

One of my college professors had worked at Bell Labs before returning to school for a PhD. As a newly minted electrical engineer, he was tasked with designing a circuit with a specific function. While I won't go into the details, he ended up creating a circuit that was very unique and shocked his bosses because he had done something that others had thought was impossible. How did he do it? He credits his naivety. He was too new to engineering to know that it couldn't be done. Yes, cluelessness can sometimes be a good thing.

It's the newbie who does something he didn't know was supposed to be impossible. It's the naive guy asking the one dumb question any clued-in person would diss. And it's that question that leads to the answer no expert would have found.

The clueless accomplish amazing things–not necessarily because we're bold, brilliant innovators, but perhaps because we just don't know any better. We see the simplicity of the forest while Those Who Know are overanalyzing the complex subtleties of the trees (and miss the point). Sometimes NOT knowing about a "problem" weakens (or eliminates) it.

It's an excellent post worth reading in full. The key point though, is not to put limits on your thinking.

(hat tip to Jotzel)

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  1. Simon's Gravatar Comment by Simon on March 5th, 2006 at 9:25 pm

    The original post gave reminded me of a great “monkey” story that really typifies organisational behaviour – I blogged it here http://www.techpersonality.com/productivity/is_knowing_too_much_holding_you_back.html

    great post!

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