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Why the “right” answer is an illusion

Four tips to shift perspective

“EVALUATION: I don’t know!” — Ratdesign.de


Can you say “I don’t know”? What about “Could you please explain that to me?” What if removing this illusion you are always right is the only way to maximize ideation and innovation in your team?


It took me a few years to feel like I could say “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand”, but now I always ask for explanations for deeper understanding and I always ask for the why. It’s enlightening! If the why is significant or has been thought through, it brings a new and needed perspective.


The Magic of Not Knowing

Have you ever tried to convince a colleague of your idea, knowing beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the right solution? Finding it difficult to understand why they don’t “get it”? We have all felt that frustration at some point in our professional lives. It makes sense to you, so why don’t they get it?


But was it really the right solution? Or the right solution for you, based on your experience, education, and perspective? Upon reflection, is it possible that there was no right solution, only the best possible solution? The best possible solutions require challenge and understanding so they can be improved and possibly lead to an innovative solution.


“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”— Friedrich Nietzsche



Illusion “Drop Off Room” — Regina Silveira


Being determined is one thing, being stubborn is another — I should know! — and digging in our heels, thinking our way is the only way to lead will create disruptive workplaces and bad blood, but more importantly, it prevents true ideation from taking place.


If you are trying to establish an innovation culture, then seeing things from your colleague’s perspective can take self-awareness and a lot of patience. But it starts with accepting — you probably don’t know the right answer.


1. Build self-awareness

You have to be confident in yourself to understand that when your idea is rejected it is the idea, and not you, that is rejected. You are not in any way, shape, or form inferior due to that rejection. This requires self-reflection and self-awareness. Remove the ego, and with this confidence you won’t become obstinate, holding on to your ideas and being closed to new perspectives, you will be able to open your ears to listen, rather than plan what you want to say next! You will also feel encouraged to keep trying to come up with new ideas and feel like you can continue to share them. So….


2. Cultivate patience

True solution finding ideation requires tabling as many ideas as possible, without any cause for dismissal, or judgment. Everyone should share every idea, as crazy as it might seem, without fear of judgment. It is often from these blue-sky, i.e. anything is possible sessions that you get the best ideas. Once they are all tabled and the blue-sky thinking is complete, then by all means discuss them, dismiss them, pivot them, or create integrations of ideas to ensure you get to the best possible solution for all parties involved. This requires patience, infinite in some regards, but if you don’t do this you will stick to “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality and stop innovation dead in its tracks. Remember…


3. Acknowledge every perspective

Everyone can’t be right. In my experience as a project manager, I have had to manage many stakeholders for projects that come from all facets of financial services, including legal, adjudication, design, IT, risk, and customer experience teams. Every one of them absolutely convinced that their perspective is the only one that matters because in their world their topic and perspective is the most important one. When designing a new mortgage application form for simplification and enhanced adjudication not one of them can be dismissed, all perspectives matter, not only from a user experience but also from a regulatory perspective. So be open, remember every perspective is important, take in every opinion and…


4. Hold the feedback

In the case of the mortgage application I created an open forum, everyone had the opportunity to share concerns, to share challenges and ideas, and in that space, we just collected them and no discussion or debate took place. The only caveat was to explain the “why” of each concern so we all had a deeper understanding of it and to provide one “idea” or solution for it. Once people were forced to listen to each other without any feedback component, sharing became more open. When it came time to discuss the items there was a more collaborative and solution-oriented tone to the discussion.


Create a culture of collaboration

This manifestation of collaboration carried itself beyond the board room and our group sessions, to private discussions between the stakeholders, creating a more cohesive end product where all sides were considered and compromises were made. If everyone had dug in their heels and maintained their stubborn positions we would have had a weaker product, or worst case abandoned the project altogether!


There is no right solution, only the best possible solution


Try this out in your next meeting when you have opposing views. No feedback, just idea-sharing. The discussion should take place only after the ideas have all been tabled. See if you can generate a new level of collaboration and understanding.


Remember that if you are not open to new perspectives, then you won’t get those results from your teams or colleagues. It starts with you. If you maintain you are always “right” you lose the chance to create a new and innovative dynamic in your workplace.


It starts with small changes to make a big impact.


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