Independent Publisher on Instagram
Indie Groundbreaking Book
Embrace Uncertainty with an Outstanding Leadership Book
In the world that we live in, knowledge is often seen as currency. Our educational systems are built around knowledge, with huge percentages of our developmental years devoted to memorizing facts and internalizing core skills. Knowledge is also what we look for in our leaders. Power and responsibility suggest great knowledge, which is why we expect everyone from our managers at work to our politicians to have all the answers. Eventually, the rigidity of this system pushes each of us to view not knowing something as a sign of weakness. Whether it's an answer you get wrong on a test or a poor decision you made because you didn't know where it would lead, not knowing makes us feel overwhelmed, ashamed, and maybe even a little bit stupid.
This month's Indie Groundbreaking Book is an excavation right down to the core of this "knowledge is power" mantra upon which we have built the scaffolding of our society. The book, Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity, offers up a contrarian view of how to live a happy and accomplished life. Authors Steven D'Souza and Diana Renner turn "Not Knowing" into a proper noun (complete with capital letters) and suggest that embracing this concept might just be the best way to break the shackles of the things that imprison us on a day-to-day basis.
Not Knowing is pitched as a business book. The first edition (the version of the book we are writing about is a fresh 2016 re-release) won the CMI Best Management Book Award in 2015. Unsurprisingly, then, a fair number of the book's pages are focused on the virtues of embracing uncertainty in the workplace. For instance, when a manager allows Not Knowing to be a part of his or her leadership, they create a more exploratory work environment where innovation is rewarded and encouraged. One of the book's more interesting anecdotes follows a manager who was tipped as a CEO candidate very early in her career and who climbed through the ranks by being the expert who always had the right answers. Eventually, though, the same qualities that helped this woman achieve a leadership position also stifled her workers and killed their inspiration. They had no motivation to produce quality work or push for better results under her rigid, know-it-all management style.
However, while Not Knowing certainly has plenty of helpful tidbits for managers, business owners, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs, it also serves as a more general indictment of how we live our lives. One example occurs early on in the book, as D'Souza and Renner tackle the trend in modern educational systems to push specialties rather than general knowledge. In college, we choose majors and classes based on our preferred career paths. We devote ourselves to learning everything there is to know about our specialties. Ultimately, we are rewarded for the effort: employers today want specialists with degrees in certain areas. They believe bringing that knowledge into their fold will help drive growth and revenue (and save them time with employee onboarding, too).
Becoming a specialist, though, creates unintentional blind spots. If you've ever read a paper or article written by a specialist where you couldn't comprehend what they were trying to say through all of the jargon and technical terminology, you've seen the effects of one of these blind spots. So-called "specialists" aren't able to relate their specialties to outsiders in ways that are easy to understand. Another blind spot is that specialists often try to solve all problems in a way that relates back to their specialty. They are so focused on the knowledge in their area of expertise that they miss simpler or more innovative solutions. One example used in the book, about a project to find potential cures for AIDS, displays the reality of this particular blind spot in fascinating light.
These examples are just a few of the intriguing insights that D'Souza and Renner offer throughout the pages of Not Knowing. The ultimate thesis of their argument isn't that we should reject knowledge or even specialty. Rather, the message they are trying to convey here is that it is okay not to have all the answers. Growing up, we all view our parents as infallible, but later find out that they were making things up as they went along—not just in raising their children, but also in finding their way in the professional world, understanding matters of love, and more. Letting ourselves be fallible as well—knowing that we can change our minds, make mistakes and learn from them, and be brave enough to try solutions that might not work—is the way to find success and fulfillment in virtually any facet of life.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.