I read an interesting passage in a very interesting book this morning (MAVERICK by Ricardo Semler), highlighting the value of having “naive” eyes in a discussion about looking for improvements. Here’s the gist of the mini-story:
First, a bit of background: this book is about a leader wanting to make his large organization more efficient, reduce overhead, be more engaging for its employees. It this specific part (chapter 29 to be precise), employees came up with the idea to “take a small group raised in Semco’s culture and familiar with its people and its products […] and set them free.” This meant no more responsibilities other than think about stuff, “invent new products, refine old ones, devise market strategies, unearth cat reductions and production efficiencies, even dream up new lines of business.” What a great idea!!!! 🙂
Now the mini-story is about one of this “thinking” group’s new product successes, and the fact that the successful idea came from the group’s non-technical person (she actually was a coordinator for training and organizational development). She and her two engineering colleagues were studying a paint mixer, and after she found out that those mixers were manually cleaned between paint batches, she suggested that “someone should invent a giant toothbrush to clean the tanks.”
The result: a new “brushlike appendage that, hooked on our mixer, swept the sides and bottom of the tank automatically, eliminating manual labor.”
Having a “naive” perspective put into the mix may not automatically yield such a successful result, but I strongly believe that it gives a “boost”, even if very small, to the creative process. It helps connecting the dots, it triggers other thoughts, it even helps you clarify and support what you’re already thinking…
The key of course is to keep it under control, not let it take you all over the place, which ends up wasting time. It’s part of that creative process that goes up and down, from high altitude to the ground floor and up again… Usually need someone to keep things into perspective, usually the lead or PM.
Of course, there is the “fresh” eyes perspective too. But they are not the same. The “fresh” comes from someone with a very similar background and experiences as most of those involved in the discussion. The “naive” eyes perspective is from someone with a different background and experiences. Actually, I would go so far to say that there are possibly two types of “naive” perspective:
- From someone with experience, that can infer from it;
- From someone without experience, that can infer from non-applied knowledge, like the newbie fresh out of school.
The point is: never dismiss the value of someone else’s input. Unless this someone is known to provide input without a valid interest in adding value… 😉