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Every Project Needs Ignorance

We recently enjoyed “Importance of Ignorance” – a presentation from Professor Daniel M. Berry at the University of Waterloo. Professor Berry makes the case that the most effective team includes someone who is ignorant of the subject matter content.

My own experiences provide support for this idea. As consultants, we rarely get the luxury of joining a project at the beginning. We often come aboard when a product has already been conceived and a few key features already have their tickets punched for deployment.

We must immediately begin reading existing documentation and asking questions to learn about the subject matter. This provides a great opportunity to challenge the underlying assumptions of the project. Many times, nobody has examined the validity of each assumption. Discussing these assumptions helps to avoid problems down the road and developing a better product. And of course, we all know what happens when you assume.

Project Ignoramus

This doesn’t mean that any given person off the street will be able to make a valuable contribution. Your project ignoramus must be able to think logically and be able to explore an idea in depth. He must also be comfortable in his role of having the least knowledge because this will lead to the necessary questions. Essentially, you’re looking for a top quality Business Analyst with a high aptitude for figuring things out and a desire to conquer his own ignorance.

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