Engineer Dan Luu (who designs CPU’s for a living) has written an excellent post about the willingness to look stupid. Here’s a brief excerpt about the point he’s trying to make:
(…) I’ve observed that people who are willing to ask dumb questions and think “stupid thoughts” end up understanding things much more deeply
Most of us try to avoid asking stupid questions because we fear what others will think of us:
Most people seemed more interested in making an excuse to avoid looking stupid
I have no problem with asking stupid questions. A colleague and I once asked the question: could you store energy by lifting your house with excess solar energy? Houses weigh a lot, so as it gets higher up, the amount of potential energy increases. At night time, you could slowly lower your house to recover that energy as electricity again!
Other people thought it was stupid. How could lift your house? What about the pipes? But we learned a lot about gravitational energy! Sadly, lifting your house a few meters doesn’t store a lot of energy. You need to go much higher. So don’t try this at home ;)