Bringing Up Baby

The other day, at trdev, there was a discussion of how best to criticize someone else's ideas.

I pointed out that ideas are like babies. When it's my idea, it's my baby and I want everyone to "oo and ah" over it. Even more, I want everyone to love it and smooch it.

When someone criticizes or over-rides my idea, watch out. "Hey that's my baby, pal."

This is something that more and more of us face these days as we find ourselves thinking for a living (which incidentally is the title of Tom Davenport's new book on knowledge management).

Another trdev poster added that we are touchy about criticism of our ideas because "people are conditioned to taking sides, so any balanced appraisal is seen as an attack." He went on to ask, what sorts of strategies can we use to "avoid being viewed as a hater" when all you are attempting to do is respond honestly and logically to another person's idea?

For starters, we need to recognize that what seems like cool logical analysis to one person, may feel like "hatin' my baby" to the next.

Beyond that, it would be helpful for work groups to develop norms ("rules of engagement," so to speak) about how they will respond to one another's ideas. This is not new. Years ago, when TQM was new, and work teams were being trained on brainstorming, we were given some basic guidelines for "bringing up baby;" for instance:

- Everyone's input matters; there are no bad ideas; one idea may lead to another
- First, listen to everyone's ideas without criticism
- Capture all ideas in writing
- Later, evaluate ideas using agreed upon criteria

These, and other sensible prescriptions for handling ideas, form a loving approach for raising ideas from infancy to adolescence to adulthood.

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