We’ve Got it Backwards

Envision this familiar scenario:  You’re sitting in an auditorium among an audience of colleagues.  The speaker is presenting a new idea.  The presentation concludes, obligatory applause follows, and the floor is opened for questions.  What do you anticipate happening during the Q&A session?   What kind of a question or comment might you feel compelled to make?  How do you think you’ll feel when you leave the auditorium?  How do you think the speaker will feel?

If your experience is anything like mine, more often than not the audience uses such Q&A sessions as an opportunity for:  (1) presenting their own idea on the topic and/or (2) degrading, dismissing, or discrediting the presenter or his/her idea.  You leave the room feeling smug and/or some level of empathy for the speaker, who feels drained and discouraged, perhaps even humiliated.   And you dread the thought of ever having to be a presenter.   Does this ring true for you? Do you wonder why this is the norm?

Because we get positive feedback for giving negative feedback. Because it is far easier to identify existing problems than to generate novel ideas. Because we are far more comfortable standing solidly in the world of the known (where all problems exist) than plunging in and swimming freely in the boundless open waters of the unknown where radical innovation is born.

Because we’ve got it backwards.

We need to turn it around!

We need to be curious first, critical later.

We need more co-creativity, less condemnation.

We need to embrace the unknown, not cling to old problems.

We need to expand and enhance before we contract and filter.

We need to put envisioning before analysing.

We need more positive feedback for positive feedback.

Envision that scenario again, this time with a collection of curious creative colleagues in the audience who are energized by new thinking and new ideas, which are encouraged by your organization.  Now what do you imagine happening during the Q&A?  What kind of questions might you ask?  What kind of discussion might emerge? How do you think you and the speaker feel after the presentation?  I imagine a lively discussion where the idea presented is explored, enhanced, and enriched; where new connections are made, new ideas emerge and grow, new are energies released, next steps are envisioned.   And you can’t wait until you’re the presenter and can share your budding ideas with this dynamic thoughtful group and watch them burst into bloom and release new seeds. I envision an organization that’s taken the plunge to become a business inspired by nature.