The truth is that I know nothing

All I know is that I know nothing.
– Socrates, Apology

Because sharing knowledge got so incredibly easy with the rise of the internet, almost everyone has something to say and share today. Medium is becoming more and more popular and is inviting everyone to write and share their thoughts, anecdotes and stories. A few weeks ago I wrote about how hard it is these days to find good content, content that is really valuable. I think for one reason it is because everyone seems to have the truth and everyone knows it better than you. Working in the digital field for 10 years is called experience and some designers for example are being promoted to become Creative Directors within two or three years on the job! I also like to share what I know and what I think. I also share my thoughts and knowledge on my blog and it’s always a collection of what I learned so far. In the end I think it is the attitude you share information with that matters. I accepted the fact that I know nothing. It not only feels great to accept that, it also opens new worlds for exploration and it makes you a way more interesting person to talk to.

Knowing vs. Understanding

When you’ve read a lot of books, essays or articles on a certain topic, it’s likely that you know a little bit about it. You might even know enough to share that information with others. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you understood everything on the matter though. Information has to be processed. You have to apply the information to real world examples in order to truly understand it. Just because you’ve read something it doesn’t make you an expert in the field. There are hundreds of people who already put that knowledge into practice thus they understood it. I would say that the earlier you accept you know nothing, the more you can learn.

Experience

Designing or developing for the web is not a craft that’s been here for centuries. Frankly it still is in its baby shoes. And it’s also constantly changing. Everyday you hear about a new kind of programming language. In 2010 you’ve heard about Responsive Webdesign – these days everyone is talking about design systems. While we started to design websites in Sketch a couple of years ago, today we start using Figma, Invision Studio and other tools. The pace in which these ecosystems change is unbelievable fast.

Experience is not a currency of great value in the digital context.

So that leaves me with a question. Is experience in the digital field really that important? I believe not. Experience is not a currency of great value in the digital context. While everything is changing so fast, we have to adapt and learn new things all the time. Digital designers who started when the web was still very young have a hard time to keep up these days. I would consider myself quite young still but even I have problems getting to know all these new tools and techniques. Again I have the same message for you. You know nothing and that is the truth. We all have much to learn and especially in the digital field there won’t be a day when you get up thinking “Oh, I just know everything now, I can learn something new now.”.

Know nothing, learn everything

Embrace the fact that you know nothing and learn something new every day. It helps you to stay curious and even if you’ve learned something you can always look at it from a different angle. But – and this is important – you don’t have to know everything. We are all passionate about different things. You talk to someone who is telling you how much she knows about wine? Don’t despair! Heck, you don’t drink wine and that is okay. It is way better to admit that you don’t know something than pretending that you do. In the first chat with a potential client we’re always transparent about what we know and what we don’t. And we always get very positive feedback about it. This is what I would call having an attitude. And by having that attitude you can differentiate yourself from others. Yes we have knowledge in the field of design, development and strategy, but we accept the fact that we’re never done learning. That’s a good thing. That’s what keeps us busy.

To recap

  1. Share what you know but accept that it might not be the truth, and I am not talking about science here.
  2. Be curious and open for new perspectives, even if they are not necessarily aligned with yours. Understanding other perspectives is a very important and underrated skill.
  3. When you’re talking about your experience, remind yourself that it’s yours. The person you’re talking to might have experienced something differently. Just because something worked for you, it is not the universal truth now.
Gaining trust inside a business relationship