In any self-respecting orchestra, there have to be harmonics—the blending of sounds together to create an unparalleled unified audio experience. That was one of the first lessons I learned during my very short band career. When I was in the fourth and fifth grade, I played the clarinet in my school’s band. And while that may not have left me with much musical education at this point, it did teach me one valuable lesson: tooting your own horn sounds nice, but has its place within the greater composition.
Horns are fun to play and fun to listen to, but after a while they can get overwhelming. And here’s where we come in.
We all have ideas. We all have great ideas that can change the world. But that’s not the point when it comes to collaboration. The point is to work together to combine ideas that can change the world even further. One of the largest barriers to the success of a team is any number of personalities who try to dominate the stage with their ideas.
I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. The guy to your left is guilty of it as is your grandmother. It’s a human phenomenon that stems in part from our desire for survival. A consistent belief that our ideas are the only ones worth listening to or worse—the only ones worth acting on is one of the greatest threats to our collaborative efforts. A truly successful team needs the input of people with different backgrounds, all throwing ideas into the lion’s pit to see which aspects survive and which become midday crumpets for the lion. It’s those survivors that are usually the ones to take further.
As for our ideas: we need to continue having them, but we have to be willing to shoot them down—to test them and attempt to find flaws beyond what we think they have. Just recently, a construction crew in Spain completed a 47 story residential building. It was designed to be the epitome of luxury living—and it will be. The apartment also comes with the added benefit of highly-tuned thighs: at no extra charge! See, the construction crews forgot the elevator.
This design got through so many regulatory approvals and design reviews and no one noticed the missing elevator. Whether or not this was partially caused by someone taking up arms to defend their brainchild remains to be seen. But what is immediately evident is that mistakes like these can come from a relentless defense of one’s own work.
For the sake of the metaphorical residents in the metaphorical building that is your life: shoot down your own ideas from time to time! The end result is a better ideation process for you, along with a substantially worldlier viewpoint.