Sometimes I feel that not everybody values truth and honesty as a virtue. Aren’t we in the business to achieve shared goals? Aren’t we in for the innovation and improvement of the status quo? I think we should be, and I think we should keep giving good feedback and provide more than a meaningless “yes.”
More than an unwanted idea
Some time ago, I think it was around 2008, before trainings were held more commonly in a virtual space than a physical one. I was amongst a group of technical people who were asked to spend their Saturday doing a workshop to learn the latest hacks of the trade. Basically, that was a good thing, and most of the crew thought it was a good opportunity to learn something new. I felt so too.
The idea was that many people would travel to get to the place where the training was held in a different city. I don’t know why I said it, but I simply spoke my mind and asked, “why are many people going there, and not let that single person come to us”? To me, this would have been so much better in many aspects.
Not everybody really took notice of my comment, but one guy was pretending to be startled by it and yelled, “Lateral Thinker Alarm! You go do some work before you get any ideas!” Even though I was quite junior at that time, I understood the witty humor behind that, and I laughed.
Of course, heaps of people still went there to listen to a single guy. No question that we learned something, but I still think that it would have been better if that guy went to our location instead. I will never forget this situation. I believe that moment taught me that ideas should always be shared, but that not everybody will or wants to hear them.
This example might be low-effort, low-cost, and low-impact, but it’s just a symbol for every potential such scenario. It could have just as well been seasoned experts not sharing their data and insight with a CEO about a million-dollar-initiative because they don’t want to have the argument. Or, on the other hand, the board, not hearing the facts right, because it was uncomfortable.
Keep the thinkers
If you want to stay on top of challenges and transformations, you need this kind of thinking in your team. Give people the feeling that their feedback has value and the potential to change something for the better. If the team feels like their voice and opinion isn’t heard, they will keep their ideas for themselves. Yeah – people do that. And guess what, they get paid the same at the end of the month, whether they shared their idea with their bosses or not.
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Photo credit: Jef Harris / Christopher Isak