Devil’s Advocate is only a part time position

Innovation, Leadership Comments Off on Devil’s Advocate is only a part time position

As a leader you are faced many times with the opportunity to parachute in to idea sessions being conducted by your teams. Are you conscious of your role as you jump into the middle of the process? Among other things you represent a higher level view of the organization and perhaps a sense of history. The team wants your opinion, your viewpoints, and your approval.

How often do you feel your best value contribution is a devil’s advocate analysis?

The ideation process and its participants are very fragile depending on where they are in the process. Cold water thrown on an idea at the wrong moment can be devastating. The wrong moments are usually very early in the process when the idea is new and fresh and unexplored, and late in the process when some effort has been associated with the idea. The idea on the table isn’t as important as the impact on psyches of the participants relative to their involvement in future ideas.

I recently had a long conversation about being a devil’s advocate with idea expert, Don The Idea Guy. We discussed how easy it is to jump to the critique stage when hearing about an idea and how de-motivating this can be. Don consciously had to unplug the critique mode when interacting with his clients, and strategically decide when to provide this feedback. The consideration is for the enthusiasm of the idea team, how they will interact with future ideas, and how best to fuel the work necessary to research and implement an idea that allows for optimum idea success and future learning.

Again, it’s not about a specific idea. There will be a lot of them. Rather, the focus is on the individual coming up with an idea. How are you setting up a healthy environment for idea generation and implementation?

Read more about this in Personal Brilliance.

Zig Ziglar says, “The way you see people is the way you treat them.”

A big part of an individual’s success has to do with their self-confidence and sense of place within the environment. Is your input to this individual primarily skewed toward criticism because that is when you have the opportunity to interact? How can you balance this out in your exposure to the team as a leader?

If you view people as innovative, brilliant, and new ideas are critical to success but your only connection is through a negative devil’s advocate exchange, you may be sending the opposite message than you intend.

Read more about the concept of Constructive Discontent:

Constructive Discontent
Brass Tacks
How invention starts
Positive Attitudes for Creativity

Avoid destructive discontent. Foster a sense of positive challenge by modeling this behavior whenever you have the opportunity.

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On July 1, 2014
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