We recently launched a new team assessment for Bates with a goal to provide new, research-based, more powerful insights for teams to increase their performance and impact. Part of that experience reminded me of the importance of soliciting different perspectives and challenges to current thinking to arrive at a more innovative solution.

As part of our process to build and vet the model, I asked some trusted colleagues to kick the tires and to give us feedback about what works, what doesn’t work, what makes sense, etc.

One colleague said he liked most of the facets and items but suggested “better” items for one facet.  My immediate response was, “Oh, he doesn’t get it.”  His suggested items didn’t fit. But then I quickly realized that he didn’t “get it” because we had done an extremely poor job in explaining the rationale for this facet.

While his examples were “wrong,” they were “helpfully wrong” because they made us improve our thinking. It forced us to really think more deeply about what we meant.  What was clear to all of us was obviously not clear to a colleague I respected and trusted. We needed to be clearer in what the facet meant.

As a result, we ended up creating items that were better examples of the behaviors we were looking for in high performing team. By being “wrong”, he actually made our thinking (and the assessment survey) better.

I learned a few lessons as a result of this experience including:

  1. If you ask someone for their opinion and they challenge your thinking, stop and consider what is behind their seeing things differently. What is their point of view? What assumptions are they making that causes them to see things differently? You need to be curious about what is behind their different point of view. After all, they are just trying to be helpful.
  1. Don’t immediately assume that when someone doesn’t “get it” that something must be wrong with them. Maybe something is wrong with how you are communicating your idea. Or, maybe they are right, and you are wrong.
  1. Whether you are working on a project alone or as part of a team, actively solicit different perspectives. Listening to a diversity of ideas can make the product better, even if those other perspectives are “wrong.” If they are “helpfully wrong,” they will make everyone’s thinking sharper and better. Don’t be afraid to go beyond brainstorming (where every idea is a good idea) and challenge ideas. It will make everyone think more deeply about what are the best ideas.

Finally, it is important to reward people for being helpful, even if their ideas are not on target or ultimately the best. If their ideas or feedback was helpful to the process, acknowledge and reward their contribution. I know that the Bates LTPITM is better because my colleague spoke up with the intention of being helpful – and he was.

To learn more about the LTPITM that we developed, click here.

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