HBR appear to be the choice of literature for a great deal of my clients. Rows of hardbacked booked sit magnificently across oak bookshelves in many offices I visit. I remember a Korean firm in Seoul where the head of department had every book from HBR associated with creativity and innovation on display. It appeared none had ever been read. I always look for post-it notes, dog eared pages and torn dust jackets as a sign of use. It’s nice to think leaders write “my thoughts exactly!” in the margin.
In this instance though, the online advice is poor.
Although the two final points make sense. Small teams and keep them together. I take umbrage with the first point. The last thing you want in a team is a ‘devils advocate’. I agree it’s good to take stock of your thinking from time to time but it’s important the whole team do that together and then collectively switch to more expansive conversations thereafter.
If one person is constantly analysing ideas, suggestions and first thoughts, NOTHING will get done. After a while everyone will get used to running by decisions and ideas to the naysayer and getting permission to move on. In addition, if the devil’s advocate is tasked solely with analysing all the time, all his/her clever experience will simply be tailored to spot what is wrong with everything. The more you practise the better at it you get. Try hard enough to find fault with an idea and you’ll find it. Eventually people will stop coming up with ideas as it’s too risky and personally exposing. So no HBR, DONT have a Devil’s advocate in a group. Ever. Everyone is either growing and building ideas or collectively analysing them as one. It’s the skill of a facilitator to help everyone get aligned between those two worlds. This isn’t advice that should come as a shock.
On writing all this though, I can’t help but think though I’ve demonstrated the very behaviour HBR advocate in their advice. Oh how soon before the headache begins...