The power of ignorance in policymaking
- 11 October 2019
- Posted by: Helen Nicol
- Category: News
Adrian Brown from the Centre for Public Impact believes it is vital for policy-makers to recognise that they don’t always know the answers, and that recognition in itself is vital for effective policy-making.
The most powerful phrase a policymaker can say is “I don’t know”. It signals humility in the face of complexity. It actively shifts power to others. It creates empathy and space for dialogue with those better placed to understand a problem. And, above all, it is invariably true.
He points out that the self image of a policy-maker as a knowledgeable person who knows what they are doing, exacerbated by organisational cultures where the presiding narrative is that those at the top know best, creates a belief that they have all the answers. Combined with a political and public discourse which “…punishes humility and rewards false certainty”, it is sometimes difficult for policy-makers to admit they don’t know it all.