Saturday, December 11, 2010

Knowing What is Not Known


One of the most valuable instincts is that which signals the entry into unknown territory.

The hair on the back of your neck might not rise, but you know nonetheless that a guide is needed and that those ripped and crumpled road maps tucked in the back of your mind are no longer useful.

I've encountered some very bright executives and managers over the years and the ones who are least likely to walk themselves and their teams into a swamp know what they don't know and know what their advisors don't know. They either seek new advisors or proceed, if at all, with extreme caution.

This does not mean they are timid. They would smirk at the word because such either-or choices are irrelevant to them. They seek only one goal: To be effective. If "soft" makes them effective, then they'll be soft and the same attitude applies to "hard."

But effectiveness requires knowledge and knowledge involves a sense of the boundaries.

Beware of leaders who believe that they and their institutions know it all. They will cite this and that study or five-year-plan and praise the glossy credentials of their inner circle.

They lack a sense of what they don't know.

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