Before reading the rest of this post, you may want to first read this post, and for some background on the title, also this post. Both posts are by Kathy Sierra.

Based on her post, I wanted to give my own opinion on cluelessness. When I read her post, something just didn’t feel right. This in contrast to the many people who did feel right when they read it.

My theory is as follows, using the idea of another one of Kathy’s own posts 😉 : The state your thinking and your actions based on your thinking put you in, cannot be described as cluelessness, unless the result does prove it to be cluelessness. So if you think something, and act accordingly contrary to what others say, nobody can say you are clueless unless you get a bad result out of it. And if you get a good result, chances are it’s everyone else who was clueless.

To use an example from Kathy’s post:

It’s the naive guy asking the one dumb question any clued-in person would diss. And it’s that question that leads to the answer no expert would have found.

If the question that naive guy was asking led to something none of those supposedly clued-in persons could come up with, they are the ones who were clueless. If for example, they were saying, based on their experience and knowledge that there is only one good way of doing something, and this guy comes up with another way, they are the ones who were clueless. Because obviously there’s at least one other way of doing it. The guy who came up with the other way of doing it cannot be called clueless in this case.

However, if this naive guy ignored everything, tried to find a new way of doing something and failed at it, he’d be the one who was clueless. Because obviously the people saying that there’s only one way of doing that thing, were right. They seem to be clued-in.

So this is also not right:

The clueless accomplish amazing things–not necessarily because we’re bold, brilliant innovators, but perhaps because we just don’t know any better.

The fact is, that if you accomplish something amazing, obviously you knew better. The people who were clueless, were the ones who assumed they knew everything and made that limit their achievements, when clearly, you’ve proven them wrong.

Another problem I had with Kathy’s post, is that it tries to make being clueless seem like something positive. It could give people the impression that being clueless is often good. This is just wrong. The word clueless in itself is negative. The meaning is negative. If you are really proven to be clueless, as described above, it’s not something positive. Clueless is not something you should want to be (most of the time).

You should not make the thought that “being clueless helps to achieve amazing things” drive you into paying no attention to other thoughts and knowledge and take you into unnecessary risks. If I had the possibility to know about something, I’d want to know about it, even if it is potentially not (totally) correct information, just to be able to consider it. I’ll make my own judgments about it.

For example, if people say there is only one way of doing something based on their knowledge and experience, I’d want to know that and know why they say so, so that I can consider the possibility of them being right. I can then better assess the risks I am taking if I want to try to do it in a different way. Just ignoring them on purpose doesn’t seem right to me. Instead of ignoring them and being overly optimistic about what I can achieve, I’d rather know their thoughts, also consider them and be more realistic about things.

And knowing their thoughts and why they say there’s only one way of doing something, might actually help you to find another way of doing it much faster! Perhaps you’ll be able to spot what they were doing wrong, or you’ll be able to see the things they have already tried and you’ll know what not to repeat so you can focus on new approaches to solve the problem etc.

And knowing the fact that they think it is impossible to find another way to do something, doesn’t have to stop you from trying to find another way and achieve something amazing. It’s your choice to accept their opinion to be true and correct or not. It’s just that when you still decide to try and find another way, you’ll be able to be more realistic about things and you’ll be able to better know the risks involved. And again, if you know their opinion but still try to find another way of doing something, and you actually find it, then they were the ones who were clueless. If you fail, you’re the clueless one.