In a meeting recently I was with a group of people deliberating the hiring of a leader for a not for profit organization. One observation was a lack of experience in a fairly important area. A wise member of our group pointed out that it could be a good thing because ignorance = fresh eyes. We all agreed that it was a good choice, but only if we all committed to supporting this new leader and connected her with a mentor. We committed.
I like the word ignorance. I like using it in front of groups because people snicker, almost like it is some sort of soft cussing word. I have to remind people that it just means I don’t know. Not I can’t know or I will never know . . . just I don’t know.
Here are some rules for hiring ignorance:
- DO IT if you see passion and gifts that get you excited about having this person thinking with you AND you are committed to #2.
- DO IT if you are ready to actively support (mentor/coach) for 6-12 months and forgive some mistakes.
- DON’T DO IT if your industry is too complex/specialized, you are too busy, and your team is too talented to be patient with a learner. You might read this as sarcasm – but I really mean don’t do it. If any of these three things are true or perceived to be true it is not a good place to shed ignorance.
- DON’T DO IT if you sense a comfort with the ignorance – if there is not hunger to leave that state. Look somewhere else.
Ignorance is actually the basis of a good development question for leaders and followers alike.
- What do you feel ignorant about right now?
- What would it mean to have that feeling go away?
- What is one thing I could do to help make it go away?
Carry that word around with you for a couple days and see what you notice.