You’ve heard all the sayings… The ones that capture the power of words and phrases and how carefully you must use them. “Be careful what you say because your words become your reality.” “Words are like weapons, wield them carefully.” The list goes on and on.

Millennials seem to know something many others don’t. They have figured out the power of one simple phrase, and how to use it to achieve their goals.


Many Millennials Have Mastered This Phrase
Words are powerful and Millennials seem to have cracked the code around using this one simple yet powerful phrase to increase their impact and effectiveness.

They are more willing to say ‘I don’t know,’ and then use it as a type of rocket fuel to super-charge their ability to find the answer, or a set of possible answers.

They seem more willing to explore. To define what’s possible versus what’s impossible. They see the options, more than the restrictions – in many cases.

Why So Negative?
When did it happen? When did the phase ‘I don’t know’ take on such negative meaning. When did it come to imply that we’re incompetent, or unworthy of our post? When did it become a brand of ignorance, and even laziness?

Many of our team members hold engineering degrees. ‘I don’t know’ in the scientific world is the first step to making new discoveries. ‘I don’t know’ in the business world has become something so negative it’s rarely muttered.

Why? How have we gotten to this point? How is it that fear levels have grown so high that using a simple three word phrase registers such disgust?

How Will Progress Happen?
If ‘I don’t know’ can no longer be used to spark new discoveries and challenge what’s possible, how will progress happen?

Millennials more than many others want their work to have an impact – so much so they are often referred to as pushy, entitled, and unwilling to “earn” their place. It is for this reason the connection between their desires and the use of the phrase ‘I don’t know’ is so interesting.

Maybe they are able to go faster and farther because they are willing to say ‘I don’t know.’ They are willing to put it out there, to be vulnerable, to be open to learning without fear of being looked down upon for not knowing everything the world thinks they should know.

Maybe they are so free to use this phrase because they are more comfortable with their skills, talents, and self than any other generation that has come before them. Maybe it’s this willingness to sail their ships that allows them to make rapid progress?

“A ship in harbor is safe – but that’s not what ships are built for.”

John A. Shedd

There’s much we can learn from Millennials if we open ourselves up to the possibility that they have much to offer. A good first step on this learning journey might be giving ourselves permission to say, ‘I don’t know’ and then using the freedom that follows to find amazing new solutions.