Importance of Ignorance to Success

I had a wonderful day today listening to some of the most accomplished people speak about their lives experiences and inspire the rest of us in the audience during the TiE Summit. I loved the talk by Paul Deegan. It was interesting to hear a mountaineer make some of the most insightful points about business.

Paul Deegan used his own story to bring out, how ignorance is needed to be successful.

When Steve Jobs quit Apple he said “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” It was during this time that he got involved with Pixar and changed the animation industry forever and for better. One of the greatest asset that Steve had with Pixar was that he did not know much about the film industry. This fact alone helped him define his boundaries in ways that others within the industry would never have thought. His ignorance was his greatest asset.

When you have a great deal of knowledge about something, you also know the risk of failure. This knowledge alone keeps you from achieving success. You tend to fear failure and avoid taking risks that you would otherwise have taken.

Paul also said that “some of the greatest insights that you get about a product or an industry come from people who do not have the slightest clue about what they are talking”.

I have noticed this often when working with students as a part of the mentoring that we do. They seem to show utter disregard for industry structures, prevailing modus operandi, etc. Their ignorance serves them well. They have the willingness to take great risks and the consequences of failure is not very harsh. This is main reason, I believe more and more businesses should be born out of universities.

I really hope that we can successfully achieve this goal in the days and years to come.

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