Are You Smart Enough for IDK?

Peter Gerritsen
Peter Gerritsen

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IDK photoI Don't Know.

Did you know that "IDK" is the shorthand for "I Don't Know"?

I didn't until last week.

Those three letters were displayed on the screen during a presentation by Michael Goldberg, EVP and CMO at Deutsch, during the Mirren New Business Conference in New York. Before Michael explained his reason for this acronym, I had that momentary mini-panic of feeling left behind (yet again) in the struggle to keep up with such nuggets of knowledge. Michael then explained that saying IDK (I don't know) during a negotiation is perfectly okay. Admitting to not know the answer can actually be a positive. We are humans — not machines — so we don't have all the answers. Good advice.

Why is it that so many people in our profession refuse to admit that they just don't know the answer? Is it stubbornness or ego? Maybe we believe it's self-preservation. If we are supposedly "experts," then we must have the answer.

Expertise is the differentiator in business. The ability to separate ourselves from the crowd through demonstration of our unique skills makes us rise above the rest. We sell our expertise. But, being an expert in something does not mean you are an all-knowing being. That is a weight too heavy to bear for anyone other than Spock.

Are you smart enough to know that you don't know everything?

"You have to embrace the fact that you will never know more about this business than you don't know about this business. But, you will know more tomorrow than today,” said Matt Williams, CEO at The Martin Agency.

Williams was another speaker at the Mirren Conference. It’s an excellent thought. I wish more of us would admit it — to our clients and to ourselves. It could actually make us better and a whole lot more believable.

As you may gather from these examples, I found the Mirren Conference an excellent use of my time. The two days were filled with many examples of smart people sharing valuable insights. I suggest attending as many seminars, workshops and conferences as you can squeeze into your iCal. I am willing to bet that you can learn something of value by attending just about any conference on any subject.

I asked a friend about why someone at his agency didn't attend last week's conference. He replied, with significant mumbling and dejection, that the team "didn't see any value in attending."

Are you friggin' kidding me!

It is like saying, "I know all I need to know." These are the people that scare me in our business. Those who really believe they know more than everyone else. In my opinion, that is a sure-fire way to see an ego rise above intelligence in a person.

I get the "slammed with work" excuse. I will even give you “the budget is too tight right now.” But to say, "didn't see ANY value in attending"?! There is always something to learn. The decision should be based on weighing the value of the knowledge versus the cost to attend —time and money.

Feeding your brain is not the same as feeding your body. You can never, EVER get enough. The curious mind always wants to know. These are the people you want surrounding you. Celebrate infinite curiosity in your agency.

With that, I would like to leave you with one more thought that came out of Mirren. Tracy Wong, CEO at WDCW said, "To paraphrase an old Asian proverb -- Use an EMPTY mind, not an OPEN mind. An open mind is just one that may be filled with shit that gets in the way of the good stuff you add to it."

I look forward to tomorrow. I will get to learn something new.

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