Could ignorance actually benefit CX?


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Interesting post recently by Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp and 37 Signals, over on Medium. Here it is. He talks about the value of ignorance in business — I considered doing a headline like “ignorance is bliss,” i.e. playing off my last name, but decided against it — and says this:

I think a lot of folks are spending way too much energy trying to know it all. They’re trying to be over-informed. Soaking up every piece of advice. Following every story, watching every video. Trying to understand too many things about how things currently work. Who’s doing what, what the latest techniques are, which list of steps to follow, etc.

You’ll make something new when you’re new. You’ll make something also when your mind is filled with other people’s ideas.

This approach might have some validity.

I’m not arguing for CCOs to be ignorant, no

Here’s what I am saying:

  • Business models are often unique to some degree
  • The composition of internal stakeholders (employees, executives) is always unique
  • Priority is often shifting or, at worst, ill-defined within companies

At this intersection point, it’s impossible to know everything. Customer experience is such a rapidly-evolving field, and one that people are discussing every day out in the marketplace and thought leader communities. You could never pick up every nugget of information. But honestly, you shouldn’t. What you need to do is focus on your stakeholders and your priorities and earning the right to do the work.

We’re up to Episode 59 of my customer experience podcast. One thing I’ve noticed more and more, especially in the last 20 or so episodes, is that the CCO guests often talk about how important the first 90 days was in terms of learning that organization (where they work) and getting to know those people. This is when they define priorities and move forward.

They almost have to have blinders on about all the advice and thought leadership out there on LinkedIn and in professional forums. It’s a form of ignorance. It’s not total head-in-sand ignorance, no. But you need to focus on your priorities.

Ignorance and simplicity

You could argue that “ignorance” and “simplicity” are cousins in terms of word choice. Well, because we live in such a go-go-go business climate now and everyone seems to be reporting increased stress and emotional burnout from work, some have argued the next big strategy should be simplicity. Focus on the core areas, define the priorities, and execute well. That’s going to get you far.

My main point here is: don’t take on every project under the sun. Don’t read every strategy and book and try to enact them all at once. Have a degree of ignorance about the marketplace as you establish your internal goals and processes. As those get humming, then you can start thinking about the broader external pieces that might fit.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Jean, I could not agree more. I see it too often. Companies trying to go after the latest and greatest without finishing what they strategized and getting something in place to improve upon. Jason and you both make good sense.

  2. It seems to me that there is a delicate balancing act when you try to function for both tour customers and your company. When one goes to work for a new company, it may be best to NOT bring any old habits with you from you old company. Learning the culture of the new company will help not only you get settled and performing well, but those you are now working with will become more comfortable with you, too. Once this period is done, then the customers and clients become the top focus – allowing everyone to keep moving forward with better relations.

  3. Ineed, sometimes making too much over-informing efforts is a another way to excuse why one does not make the decision or procrastinate. Simple and fast decisions make you learn and help to find unique way to go forward.
    no decision is a decision as well in a sense of consequences that will come anyway.

  4. Dennis, Lisa and Waldek,

    Thank you for jumping in! What we are seeing, that you validate is ‘learn the culture swiftly and how far along the company is,’ ‘swiftly find something to test how to get things done,’ ‘iterate, iterate, iterate.’ finally, ‘bring people along – don’t go it alone!’

    this work is leadership more than anything else…and the people really thriving have sharpened instincts in how to be a good leader and most important, check their ego, and their past baggage at the door!

    Thank you all!

  5. You can always count on Jeanne to brilliantly put her finger on topics with profound simplicity. I completely agree. I read so many blogs and articles about the latest golly gee whiz technology. It seems like a race to see who can derive the most erudite, sophisticated approach. We too often forget that In the end the core of customer relationships is emotional. When we over engineer relationships we miss the magic of the majesty and mystery!

  6. The premise of ignorance as an operating method is always scary. If the spectrum of experience insight goes from a) knowing little to nothing, or making assumptions, about the effectiveness of CX to z) boiling the ocean with research and analytics, then the challenge is to find the ‘happy medium’. In the case of CX, the happy, and actionable, medium would be a sufficiency of targeted research and analytics for company functional groups and management to make informed decisions and to execute both tactical and strategic plans.


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