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Playing the Fool

by Miki Saxon

118 08-08-10Shakespeare wrote in his description of Feste, the jester in Twelfth Night, that one should never underestimate a man who is “wise enough to play the fool.”

I’ve given that advice to executives, managers, workers and friends and it always works, especially if you broaden your concept of “fool.”

Being a fool doesn’t mean being foolish; it is more acting innocent or ignorant instead of showing off your knowledge or expertise.

Playing the fool draws out the other person; it gives you the opportunity to learn what they know and get a far better understanding of where they are coming from, where they are going and how they plan to get there.

Playing the fool is sort of like Undercover Boss where the CEO learns far more about her organization by pretending to be a candidate than she ever could in her normal persona.

However, I find fewer people willing to play the fool in these days of social media no matter how successful the technique.

They worry that playing the fool might be misconstrued in 140 characters and that is more important than the beneficial outcome that can result from playing the fool.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eaglebrook/5571173181/

3 Responses to “Playing the Fool”
  1. Date calculatorNo Gravatar Says:

    In my opinion “playing the fool” is quite dangerous weapon for the “player” himself. The real fools may won’t recognize “playing” and you will get the reputation of a fool.

  2. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    I think the whole point of “playing the fool” is to give yourself the opportunity to learn. The smartest people know that they can learn from anyone and don’t find it necessary to show off their knowledge at every opportunity. It’s kind of the opposite of being a “know it all.”

    Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts!

  3. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Not to be argumentative, but I don’t see a connection between playing the fool and acting like a madman; Shakespeare’s fools were not mad. Nor do I understand the envy factor.

    I see his idea of playing the fool as a learning tool referring to being wise enough to shut up and listen to what others have to say and then learning from it.

    Thanks for taking time to add to the conversation!

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