Humble is selfish

Thoughts around knowledge sharing

Entering Designit is a bit of an intimidating experience for most newbies. One of the main strategic design firms in the world, the place where DESIGN — with capital letters — happens. The guys behind Audi City, the creation from scratch of no-banks like Nequi and Pepper, or the dramatic reduction in waiting times for breast cancer patients for the Oslo Uni Hospital (an inspiring project for designers worldwide, that shows how Service Design can make a positive impact in people’s lives). Designits are a talented bunch, many of them being “the person to go to for XYZ design” in their market. And for junior designers, that’s intimidating. And for someone like me, who comes from the corporate world and has never named himself a designer before, it’s also intimidating.

At my first talent talk — the annual meeting with the company to talk about your performance, your future in the company, etc. — , my managers told me that they were expecting much more from me. That I was not showing the leadership that should correspond to someone with my seniority. That I had to shine, to be more visible. I replied that, as someone who hadn’t been a designer before, there was still a lot I needed to learn, that I didn’t know shit. Then Humberto (currently our Global Managing Director) said something I will never forget:

It’s OK to be humble, acknowledge what you don’t know, and sometimes take a step back, observe and learn from others…
… but you also have to be generous, and have the courage to get up there below the spotlights, and share with others what you know

… click

I was not being humble, I was being selfish. I was keeping for myself all the learnings from my previous 10 years of professional experience. If I shared that, it wouldn’t be showing off or craving attention, but an act of generosity.

To me, this was a totally different way of looking at things, and made me understand that whatever I had learnt in the past was something valuable that needed to be shared. So I started sharing.

During my first months at Designit I had several times thought about starting some initiatives, but never got them moving because I thought that people might not be interested, or had doubts about the value I could bring to the table by sharing this stuff. But now I didn’t have an excuse anymore. And what happened afterwards was amazing.

When you share, you enable space for growth, for you and for others. On the one side, you put a taxi green light on top of you: you start being visible to others, who start counting on you and asking for help regarding certain topics. On the other, paying attention to these opportunities leave you with less time to do your work, so you need to start delegating on your colleagues. And this makes you learn how to work as a team, to trust on others for delivering something you are responsible for. You need to care for their wellbeing, become a mentor, teach and inspire others. And this, again, makes you grow. It’s a virtuous circle of sharing and growing.

Everyone of us has something unique that needs to be shared. Don’t keep it for yourself. Write that article. Prepare that keynote. Give that talk in front of 50 people. Put yourself below the spotlights. Be brave, be generous.

Share & Grow