Photo by Bob N Renee
I remember, more than 13 years ago, at the beginning of my military service in the Israeli army. I was serving as an instructor in a school preparing soldiers for their service in the Air Force. A few months into my service I was attending a party for one of the other instructor who was about the leave after finishing her time in service. Her commander was talking about her, praising her, and he said something that for some reason I still remember. “I knew”, he told us, “that when she said in a meeting – something is not going to work – that she was right and our attempt was doomed to fail”. He continued “She had this ability to look at a suggestion and identify its weaknesses”.
For years this is a quality I desired. I wanted to be able to identify when things are not going to work. I wanted my peers and commander (or boss or supervisor) to say the same things about me. God knows I spent a lot of meetings saying things like: “this is not going to work” or “we tried that already, that’s not a good idea”.
Lately, I changed my mind. It’s not that I don’t think it is helpful to be able to point out weakness in plans. It is. I, however, came to the conclusion, that being pessimistic and critical might be OK, but if we really want innovative ideas that will change things, we need to build on each other’s ideas instead of shooting them down.
A few days ago a peer I am managing a project with sent me an idea. My first reaction when I read the idea was: “this is never going to work”. And I started writing an email detailing my opinion. And then I stopped. I thought about all the research I have done in the last few months about cooperation and innovation. I deleted my original message and wrote: “sounds interesting. How did you think to develop this?”. I am still not sure it going to work. We set up a meeting next week to further discuss. But you know what? Yesterday I had an idea building on that original idea that I think might make it work. And isn’t that what cooperation is all about – synergy?
So, what are you doing in order to build on ideas? How are you making sure ideas are not just shot down, but are developed cooperatively?