The Devil’s Advocate as a Godsend

June 29, 2009

i-want-you-speak-up-copyIn the workplace, there are a lot of tough decisions that get made every day.  Any project has turning points, any idea meets resistance, and any announcement will be taken differently by different people.  But some of the tougher decisions are made at the personal level, and they can affect the entire company.

One such decision is what I call the naysayer’s paradox.

Here is where this decision comes from: You are part of a team at work that is developing a new product or service, or even just a new strategy.  The boss is clearly looking to you for wisdom and insight, but wants to get this project moving forward sooner rather than later.  So an idea is developed and gets approved, but you are not a big fan of it.  Either you see some fundamental flaw that others have ignored or you think doing it a little differently could work better.  You know your boss just wants you to get behind the idea and push it along, but you feel the need to voice your “negative” opinion.  What do you do?

It’s a very difficult position to be in.  On the one hand, keeping quiet and getting the job done will put you in better standing with the team, with your boss, and with the company.  And though it may not be the best decision for the project, it might lead to higher morale, and maybe more money for you.

On the other hand, speaking up and playing the devil’s advocate might lead to a better product or service.  It might spark more discussion, iron out some of the flaws, or make the team more efficient.  But at the same time, it might not put you in the best position with the boss or the rest of the team.

In many ways, you may get rewarded for keeping your mouth shut, even though it means the project does not go as well as it could have.  This is an uncomfortable situation to be in.

But those people that do speak up are doing their company a service.
Though the short term affect may be negative, the long term impacts that getting the project done right will have far outweigh anything else.  Company’s benefit from opinionated employees who are looking out for the interest of the company as a whole instead of only their own career, even if the “bosses” can’t see that.

There is always a time to keep your mouth shut, but innovation happens when you open it.

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Jobs for Innovators

August 31, 2008

One of the great things about tracking your blog stats is that you can see what people are searching for when they come to your blog.  One of the phrases that led someone here yesterday was “jobs for innovators”.  That prompted me to think about what that phrase meant.  Obviously if someone is searching for it, they probably consider themselves an innovative person.  Maybe they are unhappily employed, maybe unemployed, or maybe just curious.

I believe that true innovators will flourish in many different types of jobs.  True innovation comes from within, and can cause change in any situation.  There obviously mindless jobs out there, jobs that don’t encourage new thinking, or much of any thinking at all.  But more and more, this economy has bred new “thinking” jobs that never existed before.  There are new business development positions, research and development positions, consulting positions, all screaming for innovators.

Innovative thinking has become an unspoken requirement for many of the positions created within organizations large and small.  The best thing you can do to get a job where your innovative spirit can flourish is to make it clear to prospective employers what you are capable of.  Put skills in your resume that make you seem creative.  List past experiences that led you to think outside the box.  And in your interview, talk about your passions and desire more than your hardwork and determination.

In the end, someone looking for a job that they can innovate in won’t be happy in a job without that perk.  So don’t be afraid to weed out the employers that will crush your innovative spirit.  Remember, though they are interviewing you, you have to also be interviewing them.  Innovators must be put in a position where that kind of thinking is encouraged and appreciated, so go out there and find it.

Intelligent Design

July 28, 2008

In today’s world, it is people within a company that add the value.  Whereas in the past, companies were built around their superior production and manufacturing, now everything depends on people.  Ideas come from those people within the company, and that is what drives a company forward.

It is up to the company to empower people at all levels.  Ideas can come from anyone, in any position within the organization.  The best ideas need to have a way or working through the system and implemented quickly.  So the question becomes, how do you reward this type of innovation so that you can encourage your employees to continue to create?

Many companies are trying out new ways of compensation and rewards to help their employees feel like they are valued.  A yearly salary used to be all it took, because it made people feel comfortable and secure.  But today, that will not work because it will not lead to real growth and development.  More direct encouragement is needed to give people a reason to think outside the box.  Reward those people that bring the best ideas forward, and let it be known throughout the company that this is how you do business.

In an age where personal branding is just as important as a company’s branding, a little recognition can go a long way.  Think about how much more likely it is for someone to come forward with a revolutionary idea if they know they will be given full credit.  This will limit turnover, encourage personal and professional development, and lead to a more fulfilling employee/employer relationship.

Ideas must be cultivated.  The people with those ideas must be advanced.  And systems need to be implemented to allow this to happen seamlessly within an organization.  The companies that do this will not only cultivate a better corporate culture, they will draw the best young talent to continue to move the organization forward.