I’ve been spending this time in between JOY seasons doing what I call picking up feathers. Following little hints of an idea I’ve been working out in the recesses of my mind. A lot goes on in there and I require time and space to wander long enough to find a feather and then recognize that I should pick it up and learn more about it.
Some feathers prove more beautiful than others and one I’ve been enamored with lately has been the act of feedback. As I’ve followed this thread here and there and under the lens of psychology I’ve learned that how the process of feedback unfolds is critically important to the psychological safety and culture of an organization. But most systems view this correlation in the opposite order. If we establish psychological safety and a nurturing culture, the feedback process will be open and effective. When actually the ability to give and receive feedback influences all spaces of a system. Top down and bottom up. I’m viewing feedback kind of like The Beatles. The Beatles are a result of all that came before them and also in everything that came after.
I’m reading and cross referencing like a maniac and sensing that my experience as a fine artist, psychotherapist and systems nerd might just provide a unique perspective for drilling down on the concept of feedback. And making the whole mess a lot more useful. I’m pulling the pieces together and super freaking excited about it.
The first piece of understanding feedback/constructive criticism/critique/perspective has required a ridiculously wide focus. Which you know I love. I’m excavating through the crust to the deep internal center of feedback and why this process has been rendered a lot less useful than it should be. If the recipe for innovation is an open exchange of ideas, how does the feedback process as the current watered down shell of itself support that mission? Not as well as it should.
My musings illuminate a need to conduct my own research, which is coming, but what I’ve been able to gather right now, tells me that we exist under the dangerous assumption that we want everyone to think our ideas are great. I’ll say that again.
We want everyone to think our ideas are great.
Deep down. It’s okay to admit. When we are presenting a new idea to others, it feels affirming and just plain good when everyone in the room agrees our idea is good. And yet, this is problematic. Because it’s impossible. Thank goodness.
And if it were possible, that possibility would be very dangerous.
There is a vast difference between wanting our passion and excitement to be respected and wanting everyone to think our idea is great. These are two different things. Feeling that our passion is respected can happen while having an idea that is not widely accepted. Both can be true. And recognition given to our enthusiasm and hard work toward an idea is simple enough to give and receive. All feedback should start with this assumption and recognition. The script can go like this.
You are excited.
And this is why we want you here to exchange ideas with us.
You are valuable.
And your worth runs deeper than your ideas.
Thank you for sharing your passion with us.
Here’s where things get thorny yet also comforting. If every idea WE had was great then every idea anyone could have would be great and could come to fruition. And what I can tell you after a few decades of intimately studying the human condition is that a lot of ideas are dangerous. And incredibly harmful.
It is a good thing skeptics, naysayers and those with a differing opinion exist. Resistance to our ideas creates resistance. And resistance can slow the momentum of truly horrible and dangerous ideas. And this is a good thing. Not every idea can be good and not everyone can like your idea. Every single idea must have the possibility of being great, or utter shit. Including yours and mine. Resistance can make good ideas spectacular and destroy truly harmful ideas or at least slow them down. I think there are several examples of this happening in the current dumpster fire of existence at the moment. And thank goodness.
What I’m saying is that if we think of ideas from a very wide focus, it becomes clear that of course we do not want everyone to agree on every single idea. That would definitely be dangerous. Would a lot of beneficial things come to fruition, hells yeah. But right on the heels of benefits would be a long list of ideas put into action that are harmful. And none of them would have resistance. Remember we never cast ourselves as the villain of our own story. Our ideas are all beneficial, right? From our perspective anyway.
If your idea can be bad then that means someone else's can be bad and while that might feel awful, it actually a good thing.
So how do we move ourselves from so badly wanting everyone to think our ideas are good, to holding this more neutral space on the continuum? As we do with most things. Acknowledgement. Then we work on what happens NEXT. I’m working on NEXT right now.