The Power of Saying I Don’t Know

Knowledge is power, as the old cliché goes.

For anyone who has worked in high-tech, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise when I assert that mastering certain technologies can mean a pay raise or more responsibilities. Employees that “don’t keep up” or who don’t appear to possess the latest technical knowledge may not be considered serious or ambitious.

Most people working in IT tend to be men. In my opinion, most men in high-tech pride themselves on their technical prowess and are reluctant to admit that they don’t know all the answers. I have attended many meetings in which you have two or more strong-willed guys arguing about some technical detail. Tempers inevitably flare and positions become entrenched.

Inc. magazine recently published a short article called the “The Power of Saying ‘I Don’t Know.’” Here’s an excerpt: “In today’s ultra competitive work environment, many people feel the need to be ‘super workers’ and have an answer to every question. But, it’s not always a good thing if you have people who work for you that are afraid to admit they don’t know something…”

In contrast to many IT workers, I believe that many technical writers and instructional designers are willing to admit gaps in knowledge. After all, our jobs require us to research often basic information for new users. With that in mind, we have to ask subject matter experts some pretty rudimentary yet specialized questions because we need to relay that content to users. Our jobs require a healthy dose of humility.

Of course, I’m making general observations. But I’d hazard a guess that a significant portion of IT workers want to feel like they know all the answers. For writers, this willingness to admit we are not “all knowing” may be one differentiator from our peers.

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