Not knowing is an ok place to start

My early theater experience involved staging original productions. We started with a scheduled opening night months in the future and possibly a general concept for what the show would be. More often than not we began without a script. But it was the theater after all and we all believed that “the show must go on.”

Turns out that is enough. Creation is messy and chaotic. There’s always a lot you don’t know. What you learn is that collectively you know something and, with some luck and improvisation in the moment, you can take another step toward opening night. Repeat that loop multiple times, opening night arrives, and there is a show.

Essential to making that work is that everyone needs to be clear about what they do know and what they don’t know. Not knowing is accepted and expected. What is not acceptable, often dangerous, and occasionally life threatening is trying to conceal ignorance.

I didn’t appreciate how important those lessons were while I was learning them. Who does?

There was another set of lessons on offer at the same time. They’re still widely available in lots of environments. These are the lessons about celebrating what you think you know and concealing your limitations.

I believe those have always been dangerous lessons despite their prevalence. The organizational environment that we now inhabit makes those old lessons obsolete. I am most troubled by those who cling to those lessons even as they disintegrate.

Ignorance is a correctable problem; willful ignorance is not.

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