Look Both Ways

improv(photo credit seanhphotos)

We're often counseled to consider things from all angles, or to look at both perspectives, but that's trickier than it sounds if you haven't really practiced the skill. How often have you heard, "I'm just playing the devil's advocate." By the way, that often means, "I'm going to slam your idea now." Here are some thoughts on perspective and viewpoint.

  • Listen-People have a habit of wanting to weigh in too quickly when someone gives their opinion or sharing his or her idea. Just listen to the whole piece, even if something pops up right away that you need to question or that you find objectionable. (It helps to jot down your point on a piece of paper, so you can release your brain back to listening).
  • Repeat Back- When the other person finishes speaking, try to reflect back what she said. Don't be a tape recorder. Just make sure you understand what she said.
  • Upstream/Downstream- Peers tend to consider ideas from their own level in the process. For instance, two retail clerks will consider their role to be central to the organization as a whole (which, in ways, is quite true). Try viewing the idea from the manager's perspective, from the customer's perspective, and other angles. Your change in process might make perfect sense to someone ringing at the register, but it might cause all kinds of logistics nightmares to the finance department.
  • Super-Size It- Some ideas seem great at a small scale, but what happens if the idea really takes off. Can you do the same thing when there are ten times as many orders? What changes if this gets really big? Or, if the idea is huge to begin with, how can you scale it back in times where money's scarce, or other needs get in the way? It's important to look at the size of the thought or idea.
  • By Any Other Name- Lots of ideas make GREAT sense when YOU are at the helm. Your personal abilities and skills lead you to make assumptions about how things will go forever and a day. What would change if you weren't in the seat? Does everyone at the organization have your skillset and abilities? Will you be able to transfer or replicate what you're doing to others?
  • Use All of the Buffalo- Does this idea scrap everything that came before it? Is there a way to use something from previous ideas or already-incorporated stuff in this idea? Sometimes being able to reuse from previous things makes for an easier transition path. On the other side, consider that your idea might be too big, and that some of it might have to be spun off. You might still be able to use the ideas you spin off later, for other projects. Don't just trash them outright because they don't match 1:1 with your overall idea.

Next time you get an idea, try to look at it from every angle. Not only may it give you more insight, but it's important to the health of ideas. Not EVERY idea, mind you, as there are times when a snap decision beats the fully-considered option. That said, use these tips and add your own to build a strong idea that can take on a life of its own.

--Chris Brogan delivers creative content at GrasshopperFactory.com

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The Devil Rides Out...

I remember having lunch with an Emeritus Professor and asking him for tips on how to avoid students interrupting my lecture with questions that they feel are of vital import. Without a word he reaches into his pocket and removes a small. hard. leather case of the kind a quality piece of jewellery may come in, only somewhat larger, and placed it on the table. Clears his throat and begins to speak; "Goodmorning, welcome to my lecture on 'table manners'. Now much as I like to hear the sound of my own voice I find these 'things' rather tiring to wear..." With that he popped the case open and deposited his hearing aids inside. Leaving me rather nonplus.... :S

BTW Chris, would you say that reflecting back or summarising an argument is same as to paraphrase? ;)