Knowing you know very little is a good thing. You know?

I recently attended a foresight function (and I was late, go figure) and bumped into my old strategic foresight lecturer. I hadn't seen him for over two years, and yet when he introduced me to one of his colleagues he said "This is Ben. He is dangerous. He knows very little but does a lot with it".


I was initially taken aback (probably by the metaphorical back-hand that hit me), until I started to think about what it would be like if the opposite were true. What if I knew everything, yet did nothing with it? Which would be worse? History is riddled with talented people, groups, companies who seemingly knew everything, had the world and its markets at their feet, yet did nothing with it.

The problem with "knowing everything" is that you don't realise that you can't possibly. And the more you focus on knowing everything about something, you take your focus away from knowing everything about something else. And then time changes everything and you have to start all over. It's a vicious cycle.

We live in the present and yet we are guided by the abundant promises of the future...the very essence of the unknown. What we know today can help us make decisions on the future, but nothing more. And choosing which path to take is fraught with risk. We are all decision-makers, and every decision we make is "dangerous". The seemingly less risky option, basing judgment entirely on the "known" past, is actually the most risky of all.

I'd rather surround myself with people who know much about many things. The real art is to simplify things into their essential meaning; just enough to make the right choices, for the right reasons.

So, to my old lecturer, I'd like to say thank you for stirring my thought patterns. If you happen to read this post, I'd like to ask you to refer to me as the following from now on: "This is Ben. He is dangerous. He knows very little, but this he knows, which is why he does a lot with it".

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