Maybe not so naive?

So my throwaway question from Friday generated some heartfelt comments.

Heartfelt, and – to me – heartening. I think a lot of organisations create complicated processes in an effort to systematise human relationships. These processes generate what a friend calls a “corporate nod” the kind of assent that really means “yeah, I’ll play along” and not “yes, I love that idea”.

Of course, any organisation needs its procedures but there seems to be an impulse to create too many of them, and too complicated. A personal peeve of mine are “evaluation forms” at the end of events. These seem to encourage an evaluative rather than participative mindset – where people are invited to assess whether it “worked” (on a 5 point scale) instead of engaging live in making it work at the time.

One fine day, I’ll announce that I won’t read those feedback forms – to emphasise how much more valuable it is to get live engagement from people taking risks to make things work in the here and now. Probably on the same day I’ll kick off a creative thinking meeting by saying, “Could we all embrace the possibility that nothing useful may come of this meeting? That way, we can all stop trying to control what happens, relax and probably create an atmosphere that’s actually more likely to see something useful emerge.”

Patti Digh commented

The urge is toward neatness, clean, tight, neat lines in business–and what we are asking is for people to walk (even run!) toward messiness, chaos, those edges where real learning (and real relationship) take place.

I don’t have a problem with neat lines if they act as a prompt to, rather than limitation on, creative thinking.

4 thoughts on “Maybe not so naive?

  1. patti digh

    To follow up on my previous thought, to clarify it perhaps – prompted by your own note about neat lines….I believe that strictures and boundaries and the creation of well-defined play pens (safety) are vital to creativity, not anathema to it. As my business-partner-who-is-a-painter, David, tells me so often – learning how to paint like the old masters, mastering technique, is not a boundary to creativity, an inhibitor, but liberates creativity, frees it up. So, paradoxically, circumscribing a play pen in which to be messy is a necessary first step. Sometimes, though, I fear that neat lines are a boundary rather than a horizon. We legislate human behavior (200+ pages of employee manual) which serves the odd purpose of allowing all of us to abdicate responsibility for our own actions…

    and gives us ample excuse not to be creative.

    Reply
  2. Jack Martin Leith

    I couldn’t agree more. So what if people feel unsettled at the end of a workshop or work-orientated conference? Maybe that’s exactly how they need to feel when change is happening. My personal peeve is the stage-gate process. The Offical Website of the Stage-Gate Innovation Process talks about “a conceptual and operational roadmap for moving a new-product project from idea to launch”. So let me check that I’ve understood this correctly: it’s the roadmap that moves the project from idea to launch, is it? Where do the people come into it? Oh yes, they’re the ones following the map. Maybe this could be a new product line for Stanfords?

    Reply
  3. Johnnie Moore

    Johnnie and patti…

    ere is my Open Space evlauation form. It’s one page long and at the yop it has this question:

    “As a result of this meeting…”

    That’s it. I do read them because sometimes there are things in those “evaluations” that are important to note, but not important enough that they made it into the proceedings. Once in a while, the only useful stuff in a gathering shows up on these forms, because the meeting itself had made big personal shifts, but not a big collective one.

    Basically the approach is to have people evaluate themselves on their own work. Open space and get out of the way…

    —–

    Johnnie and patti…

    ere is my Open Space evlauation form. It’s one page long and at the yop it has this question:

    “As a result of this meeting…”

    That’s it. I do read them because sometimes there are things in those “evaluations” that are important to note, but not important enough that they made it into the proceedings. Once in a while, the only useful stuff in a gathering shows up on these forms, because the meeting itself had made big personal shifts, but not a big collective one.

    Basically the approach is to have people evaluate themselves on their own work. Open space and get out of the way…

    —–

    Thanks for the great comments. Jack, yours reminded me of what I wrote ages ago about the waterfall process… the dangers of idealised, tidied-up templates for innovation.

    Reply

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