The Talent Catalyst Conversation is powered by a series of open-ended questions; questions like “What are your hopes?” “How will you need to grow?“ and “What would be a healthy stretch?” An initial and understandable response to many of the questions is the phrase “I don’t know.”
What interests us is that, even though the words are the same, there’s a world of difference between “I don’t know!” and “I don’t know?”
“I don’t know!” is the response of a fixed mindset. It implies that, not only don’t I know now, it’s something I’ll never know; a question not worth considering. Follow up questions to “I don’t know!” tend to find resistance. “I’ve told you ‘I don’t know,’ now stop bothering me.” It is the end of a conversation rather than a beginning.
On the other hand, “I don’t know?” is the beginning of a conversation. It comes from a growth mindset and implies, “Thank you for asking. Let’s explore some possible answers.” In this context “I don’t know,” is the birthplace of possibility.
For most of us, formal schooling was all about having the right answers. “I don’t know” was a black mark; something to be avoided at all costs. As adults there are still areas where we are expected to “know” the answers to certain questions that are related to our jobs and our roles in society.
It is a critical distinction for us to recognize both the power of knowing some things (certain deadlines, figures related to our job accountabilities, the speed limit) and the power of not knowing when what’s needed are fresh possibilities.
So, we invite you to raise your awareness around the phrase “I don’t know.” It could be a key for you to recognize whether you are keeping yourself in a box or opening up to important discoveries.