Why Intellectual Humility is a Superpower

Why Intellectual humility is a superpower

You walk into a new situation, a new job, a new team, a new everything; how do you approach it? With an open mind or a closed one? Most everyone who gets hired for a job is rewared because they have experience in doing that job; not because they don’t.

For most people, this is very exciting because they are getting rewarded for their knowledge and experience; it’s like all the time spent in previous jobs wasn’t for naught. Unfortunately, as time goes by, most of these people are ill prepared to deal with situations where their experience is irrelevant. I’m talking about jumping into the unknown, dealing with uncertainty; not doing more of the same.

Companies need to evolve, and that evolution never happens because of known knowledge. The same applies for people, because we evolve as we learn from different experiences. A big obstacle impedes this evolution: The Curse of Knowledge.

The mistake we all make as we get older is believing we know everything. Because the more we do something, and become successful because of it, the more confident we become and then that becomes hubris if we lose a sense of humility. Personally, I get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. I get more excited for jumping into things in which I know nothing about than those I do; the unknown gets me fired up. Why? Because I have to rely on my curiosity to figure things out; this is the innovator’s attitude at work.

Why is curiosity important?

Because the farther you look into the future from the present, the less your current skills will matter; the less you know. Curiosity, asking more questions, becomes more important the further you look into the future because you don’t have all the answers and must look for them.

To deal with the unknown, uncertainty requires intellectual humility: knowing you don’t know what you don’t know that you don’t know; and thus you might be wrong.

How do you cultivate intellectual humility?

One way to cultivate more intellectual humility is to acknowledge how hard it is to really know something—especially when it comes to other people; this is also why it’s so hard to predict the future! If there’s one thing we’ll always do is interact with people, robots will not change this, so you better get out of your own head and be more curious about people.

So, be curious: ask more questions, hang out with people who don’t think like you, do things you’ve never done before, don’t be afraid to change your mind; simply get out of your comfort zone.

Remember, evidence of competence is what gets people jobs. Evidende of incompetence doesn’t. But to create the future, we’re all incompetent if it comes down to experience. You see, experience is a key enemy of innovation. And we have to be curious to drive innovation, no other way around.

Here’s another way to look at this: People that are often right change their minds often. Accepting that we’ll be wrong is powerful, but more powerful is changing your mind because you’re learned something you didn’t know.

To summarize, act like you don’t know anything. Yes, you do know stuff. You’ve built up knowledge and experience. But don’t let that be the source of your confidence, rather make your boundless curiosity the source of your confidence. Whether you’re a futurist, an entrepreneur, an executive, an innovator, or an employee; you have to cultivate intellectual humility. Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all.

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