You don’t know it all. You can’t do it all.

I keep passing this saying, written on a post-it note on the desk of a very esteemed colleague (who most of us would probably say is one of the best equipped to know more and do more) and it brings me back to the truth of why we do this work.

Within human beings there lies a desire to be the winner. We all want to be the one that jumps the fire and saves the princess. We all want to be seen as exceptional.

But when we are looking to solve complex social problems, being exceptional doesn’t help. Even being the best won’t get you where you want to go.

The odds of one exceptional person having the exact skills required, at the exact time they’re needed, with the right amount of information and context and a full systems view of all of the factors that feed into a complex social problem are zero.

Solving complex social problems requires moving to a space of humility and humanity. It requires that we recognize that we are all connected as human beings, and it means that we make space for each other to share what makes each of us exceptional while we acknowledge our sameness.

Our truth is constructed by our experiences and this means that we can’t know all because there is no possible way to DO all or BE all. But by recognizing the innate value and contribution of every person and by engaging many different stakeholders, we can get a more multifaceted view of a complex social problem.

We have to be willing to see how we are each exceptional and each the same and seek to fill any gaps in between to solve complex social problems.

Before we look to solve, we have to seek to understand.
We can’t know it all. We can’t do it all.


Taking a humble approach, steeped in a learner’s mindset of curiosity and equality, we can engage others in trying to find the answers. 

Because we don’t know it all and we can’t do it all on our own.
But together we can do more and know more.

And that’s why we’re here.

Take a look at the Designing Better project to see the outcome of engaging diverse groups in solving complex social problems.