Setting The Stage


This excerpt is from my book, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity. It comes at a point in the book where I discuss personal practices that increase collective ingenuity. Throughout my coaching and research, I’ve discovered that high performing teams are populated by individuals who are vigilant about their own self development. They want to be better, for themselves. But they also want to donate their excellence to their tribe. I call this being “alchemy ready.” This small section reveals the important quality of humility and why it’s important to personal and collective ingenuity.


To Be Ingenious Is To Be Humble

When we are appropriately discontent, when we venture out and ask questions, we are demonstrating humility. Know-it-alls aren’t discontent—except with everyone else. They don’t venture out; they expect others to come to them. And they declare far more often than they ask. Humility, on the other hand, grounds a person in the reality that they have much to learn and therefore need humility.


Humility grounds me to two realities:

  • I am finite and frail and there is so much to life than I can’t 
  • I have ability to search out the unknown and unexplored 


The word humble has partial origins in the Latin word humus, which literally meant “on the ground.” Humility then isn’t about having an ever- diminishing view of yourself. It’s about having an appropriate and grounded view that allows you to explore with wisdom.


Searching the unknown and unexplored requires humility because without it, we might barge into situations that leave us, and others, vulnerable to unnecessary danger. 
Mapmakers used to draw pictures of dragons at the edge of the known world. “Here be dragons” was the warning. This warning should certainly engender humility when venturing beyond the known territory.


Humble venturing is an action we all need to develop when encountering the unknown. Humility doesn’t eliminate a confident search of “what could be”; it enables it. Neither is humility fear based. Some might look at the dragons and shrink back out of fear. Humility allows us to enter the unknown with healthy apprehension. Healthy apprehension helps us move at the right pace and intensity so that our venturing out has the best chance of leading to new discoveries rather than new dysfunctions.