A number of years ago, a friend confided in me that she pretended not to understand information so that her boss would have the opportunity to lead her. She said that this made for a work atmosphere with less conflict. While I was surprised at her confession, I understood as I had heard many stories about her work situation and knew that by speaking up she would invite a lot more work and struggle with respect to her boss.
I imagine that throughout time people have feigned a lack of knowledge for many reasons in the work place or in relationships. I wonder how often this has happened due to a lack of equity. For example have women underrepresented their level of skill and knowledge in order to not rock the boat. And does this happen with regard to hierarchy too. If you're an underling, do you risk demotion for speaking up, asking questions, and sharing what you know.
As an educator, there are many times when my students know more than me. I welcome their voice, ideas, and in some cases, correction. I know I don't know it all, and every time my students speak up in this regard, I learn more and that knowledge helps me to better serve other children. The same is true with my colleagues and leaders. I enjoy learning and welcome their ideas and discussion about learning and specific content areas.
I believe that "make believe" that hides an individual's strengths is not positive for any collaborative effort. Instead as I recently learned of in a recent interview with Linda Hill, I think it's best for everyone to bring their best knowledge, ideas, questions, and efforts to the table, and then with good process, we can maximize the collective genius of the group independent of hierarchy, gender roles, cultural bias, or other preconceived notions.