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December 31, 2008



As a person who sees technical issues from a more negative perspective I would say that acknowledging risks is important.

In software all things are possible - but not all things are practical. So another step that helps keep the conversation going in a positive direction is a clear budget of resources, time and money.

For example - with a new idea present both the pros and the cons - and a list of risks. That shows to the negative thinkers in the room that you've considered the consequences of your idea. Listing them as risks rather than issues keeps them in the "solvable" frame in my opinion.

Finally encourage others to brainstorm with you about what it would take to get to the end goal. This includes people - include the negative thinkers - and helps create a sense of shared ownership.

But you do all these things already, so why I am I encouraging you?


mark brady

Great question, Jon. I don't have any cut and dry answer. But the thing you and David mention about risk makes me think back to Frank Scavo's "ROI trap" postings (http://tinyurl.com/956lta).

As I recall that one, combined with your post, it makes me think of considering ROEI - return on emotional investment, and its corrolary, "loss." Those two words, Invest and Loss carry dangerously variable definitions. Change is obviously a challenge to many already-held views, to hard-learned processes or whatnot. The challenge or destruction of that earned "Equity" in people's mind's seems to be the roadblock.

Scavo sez: when considering benefits, people generally like to "take the sure bet." But when considering costs, people generally like to say, "I'll take my chances."

Sure bets are synonymous with tweaks and incrementalism. They're not really gambles at all and therefore, not potential "change" either.

And "costs"? For the group, discussing and/or committing to meaningful change ideas carries many into the zone of theory that leaves behind their hard-earned habits of expertise. ("Habits of expertise" says volumes now that I think of it.) Anyway, that undertaking is a danger to their company role or persona - a real, visceral emotional cost measured against a theoretical ROI.

Scavo points out, using IT proposals as his model, that framing 'risky' opportunities in more certain or hard terms of benefit goes a long way to getting minds open. Oddly enough, "doing your homework, Tiger"--backgrounding on the hot buttons of participants--a la, John Boyd's MO, would be the way to plus the chances of productive discussions. If you recall, OODA's orientation is mostly about knowing the other well enough to anticipate and preempt their moves; to be where they are before they are there themselves.

Did all that make sense?

(And happy new year!)

Jon Strande

Both, thank you for the comments!

David, great points - and I appreciate your big picture thinking!

Mark, yep, makes perfect sense! I wasn't thinking about Boyd when I wrote the post... but really should have been! Happy new year to you as well!

Sade Tagbo

One trick to get people thinking positively is to start with the question "If we had a solution, what would it look like?"

That usually gets people thinking of possibilities rather than putting up walls right away. It also lets you know what that person's concerns are so you can address them when proposing a solution.

Albert Wong

I very much agree with you!

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