1. (esp derog) (a) showing lack of experience, wisdom or judgement: politically naive; (b) foolishly ready to believe what one is told: You weren’t so naive as to believe him, were you?
2. Natural and innocent in speech and behaviour: Their approach to life is refreshingly naive.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary
To be called naive isn’t a compliment. The word is used mostly in derogative sense, and what usually comes to mind is an image of a blue-eyed adolescent, crushed by the fleeting nature of her school sweetheart’s affection.
But I’d like to pimp naiveté up a bit and see what you think.
In the final year of high school I applied to Oxford. At the time I was studying in Germany with no ‘how to get into Oxbridge’ know-how, 'how to perform well in an interview’ classes or a string of school alumni who got into Oxford. In fact, I was completely unaware of the whole ‘Oxbridge thing’, and my thought process was simple: “I am bright, I get good grades, I want to get into the best university in the world and I reckon it’s Oxford”. So I applied. And I got in.
You might think I was incredibly confident, but it was not the case. I was just naive in my thinking and ambition, which is what kept me safe from self-doubt, fear of failure and negative thinking.
This summer I interviewed the founder of Rubies in the Rubble Jenny Dawson, who talked about entrepreneurs in general and said that what unites many of them is a certain degree of naiveté. It is this characteristic and not months of rigorous research and analysis that allows you implement your vision or, in kinder English, follow your dreams. Launching a new venture will always be associated with lack of experience, so perhaps a little naiveté is quite apt.
I am frequently asked how I get to talk to and meet high profile personalities, and I must admit that I don’t have secret access to a privileged network. I approach people with a ‘why not’ attitude and a fair amount of optimism, even if asking for a favour. It’s like meeting nice strangers or enjoying random acts of kindness: it should not be so surprising and yet it always is.
The best lesson in naiveté is watching children. We laugh at their gullibility, yet there is something appealing in the straightforward and wholehearted way they approach things. I may be naive, but I think there is something we could learn from them.