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In the highly charged political environment we live in today we see a growing division regarding differing ideas and views. I’m sure you’ve seen how new ideas or viewpoints offered by some aren’t really appreciated, acknowledged or even allowed when they differ (e.g. Kanye West / @KanyeWest) from what’s expected. There seems to be no room to find a middle ground any more; we’ve lost the ability to have civil and open debate of ideas. When you turn on cable news, read Twitter feeds and even when you have conversations with friends and relatives about countless topics, today’s vitriol has become pervasive. If you aren’t in lockstep with others you’re often castigated, ridiculed and left on the outside looking in. A form of groupthink. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines groupthink as,
“a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics”
Historically in business most companies operated in a groupthink mode. Autocratic, dictatorial company owners or management with no interest in opposing views or new ideas. Perhaps you worked for a company like this during your career or maybe work for a company today that stifles new ideas? That style may have worked once upon a time, but not in today’s business environment.
Over a 10-year span beginning in 1990 I had the great fortune to work with a small, boutique consulting firm based in California while I was an executive at Belron International Ltd. Everyone I worked with at the consulting firm, from the principal to all the associates, brought tremendous value to company meetings they attended or facilitated. With their help teams openly discussed issues the business was facing, and we were encouraged to fully consider and debate all ideas to find the best way forward. The firm espoused that there were “No Bad Ideas (NBI)”. Out-of-the-box thinking. A key to using NBI is that it cultivated the opportunity for all participants to feel comfortable suggesting highly creative or unconventional ideas without the chance of being mocked by peers. When you remove the fear of being ridiculed for what might be viewed as a controversial idea in a meeting, you unlock infinite opportunities and options. It’s amazing to see what can be accomplished in an NBI environment. The firm provided tremendous value to me, as well as the companies I was responsible for managing.
While working at the company the Chairman, as well as the President/CEO of the organization (at that time) were both key influencers in my career. They used a similar concept to NBI in meetings. Everyone was encouraged to raise contrarian viewpoints to ensure that as many ideas as possible were raised and considered. When offering a contrarian or unconventional idea during meetings we were told to start with “I’m just practicing, but what if……”
Participants could raise ideas without fear, regardless of how outrageous the ideas may have been viewed, as all participants in the discussion were “just practicing”. The outcomes of meetings where we used just practicing always provided better options or alternatives to determine the best path forward for the company.
I’ve used NBI and just practicing with great success for almost 30 years in other organizations. I suggest leaders embrace NBI and just practicing within your teams to maximize opportunities for success. Respectful listening and learning never ends and any organization could benefit from using these techniques.
p.s. Today, all of those with whom I worked with at that consulting firm have gone their separate ways and each have had and continue to have amazing individual careers. So, thank you, Selwyn, John, David, Jim and Brian for NBI, along with the support you all provided. Thank you to Ronnie and John for just practicing.