The Professional Benefits of Being Clueless

“I have no idea what I’m doing.” – Dog Socrates

I’ve written before about how I really don’t know anything. A common theme! My guess is that a lot of young people in the workplace (if they’re smart) figure out the same thing quickly.
There’s one saving grace for people like us: the model. There’s a lot to be said for having a list of best practices/formulae/tips/rules to follow, especially when we’re just getting started in the world. This is one of the main strengths of the apprenticeship model – we learn by imitation.
Consider me. I know next to nothing about marketing. I only know marginally more than nothing because I’ve had coworkers to model good marketing for me. The best way to write a press release? To organize events? To deal with dissatisfied customers? Watching how my more experienced colleagues have handled these things has helped me get my start in this business.
At some point, though, we can’t rely on our models and formulae. Sometimes the models are flawed. Sometimes the formulae were never formulated. Sometimes our teachers aren’t around. We have to solve problems on our own. And those problems can come when we least expect them.
Then what? What do we do when we have no best practices to follow, no list of rules to obey, no easy checklists to cover our asses if something goes wrong?
When we feel like that dog who has no idea what he’s doing?
This is when we have to create the models and processes we’ll use to get things done. This is when we find what the previous models were missing. It’s how we find out why and how models work.
When we’re working without models (i.e. clueless), we have to start from scratch and rely on the first principles of whatever we’re doing.
The principles are what we know to be right about ourselves and the world, even without much experience. In business, that’s value creation. If we proceed with the assumption that creating value for our customers, coworkers, partners, and suppliers is our job, we’ll generally find the resourcefulness we need to create my own ways of doing things.
When we’ve done this, we’ve taken the next step in our growth as dog professionals humans. And we’ll stop freaking out when we don’t have rulebooks or leaders to follow.
Consider me again. If I’m following the first principles of good marketing, I’ll write press releases that make it easy for journalists to write good stories. I’ll throw events that bring people together to form valuable connections. I’ll create better user experiences for my customers and better processes for handling issues. I’ll create dog memes that teach universal truths about ignorance and professional skills.
You can do that, too. So don’t sweat it if you don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll need to be ignorant of the best practices if you want to create better ones, anyway.