I recall very clearly a team’s behaviour in a large manufacturing company, the team largely been made up of engineers and operational/production experts – whenever an idea was introduced to the larger gathering, individuals would attempt to pick holes in the idea unless the introducer of the idea was able to defend the principle and its possible implementation to the group. Introducing an idea became a “walking the gauntlet” exercise rather than a quest for self and production improvement. No-one offered new ideas anymore – the devil’s advocates would manage to squash any ideas as soon as they were raised and, as a result, the team started stagnating, seeking to manage processes rather than introducing improvement techniques. This was common operational procedure until the team recognised that it was on a downward spiral, ineffective and negatively self-regulating. The team proposed a new operational framework:
- No idea is deemed bad until proven so
- The first speaker after introduction of the idea must stand up for the idea’s veracity (in other words, as a “God’s advocate”, the responder to the idea must exemplify its merits, not its demerits)
- Any idea is good, even though it may need to be “tweaked” (i.e. no idea can just stand on its own without refining the idea to suit company direction, strategy, policy and values)
In so doing, the fragile bud of an idea was preserved, protecting the potential innovation from undue criticism and harsh judgement. The team responded well to the new “norms” of deliberation and self-managed themselves under new guiding principles. As a result, production enhancements and productivity as a whole improved.
Being a “God’s advocate” as opposed to a “devil’s advocate” accomplished two important immediate outcomes – firstly, new ideas were protected and secondly, people who were creative were elevated. The subsequent effect was long-lasting – a culture of creativity was created and resonance within the team was reinforced. The team became more effective and the company benefited in the ensuing months and years.
When the team’s vision, mission and purpose are made abundantly clear by the leader and adopted as operational and principle norms by the team, the team has the opportunity to practise abundance in mentality – ideas are incorporated into the learning practise of everyday team existence and being part of the team becomes rewarding in and of itself – constructive emotional experience and team togetherness provide energy and motivation for accomplishing the team’s goals.