Have you ever had a question that you refrained from asking because you were afraid you might sound stupid? If you say, “no,” I don’t believe you. Think about this: Every person’s idea of a stupid question is unique; therefore, all current or future questions could be labelled as stupid by someone, somewhere. Clearly, this is impossible, so if we were to be totally logical, we would disregard the whole notion. We tell others that there is no such thing as a stupid question, yet, like crying, the feeling is different when it’s ourselves feeling vulnerable.
Psychologists who study the dynamics of change (or lack of it) say that the fear of looking ignorant becomes increasingly powerful and limiting as most professionals gain expertise in their fields. After all, who wants to deviate from their hard-earned sense of competence? And, yet, the benefits of curiosity and a beginner’s mindset are numerous. Albert Einstein wrote in 1945, “Combinatory play that connects the dots between disparate fields is the essence of true innovation.” So, how can we lessen the hurdle of fear so that people ask the open-minded questions that drive creativity?