Shakespeare 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/