Management Topics

Do You Have a Red Team? by Josef Martens, PhD, CSP Y effect

ou know some of the standard innovation killer phrases: “We’ve never done it before” or “We’ve

always done it this way” are so obvious that they should be extinct in all organizations by now. Sadly, they aren’t. A little more deceptive is the “Yeah,

but”. At first encouraging, and then the “but” leads to the killer comment. Someone once wisely said: all “buts” stink. There is another phrase. Its deadly is well masked behind a veil

of positivity. Yet it is just as lethal for innovation.

“This is a Great Idea” How often have you heard someone

say this about an idea, or you thought it yourself? Probably fairly often. It’s well- intentioned when we say it to someone because it seems to encourage creativity and innovation. Here’s some bad news: like the phrase “Yeah, but,” the phrase “this is a

26 ❘ November 2019 ®

great idea” is an innovation killer. It’s an even bigger innovation killer. I’m not kidding here. The reason is that the fastest way to failure is to be in love with your idea. The reason is called “confirmation bias.” Our brain filters and selects information that confirms our beliefs. We’re much better at perceiving and noticing things that fit into our belief system than those that oppose it. Confirmation bias drives much of

our lives: the way we view politics, how we make purchasing decisions, how we raise our kids, and how we relate with others. The same confirmation bias exists

in innovation and leadership, and especially

tech organizations are not

immune to it. Techies like their ideas even more. It’s easy to get vested into our specialty area and fall in love it every aspect of it. Loving ideas creates confirmation bias. It sets up a pattern of perception and even test strategies that tend to confirm the idea instead of disproving it.

And voila, we have created a recipe for disaster.

When we have an idea, who do we

go to first? Do we share it with someone who we expect will say something positive, or do we go to the person who’s usually critical? Do we think that new ideas need to be protected and nurtured at first so that they don’t get killed too fast, or do we expose them to all the harsh facts of reality? The founder of Intuit, Steve Cook, summed it up nicely: “For each of our failures, we had spreadsheets that looked awesome.” This quote is insightful and accurate.

Have you ever seen this: seemingly solid proof that a bad idea is actually a good one? No doubt, we can always create an impressive statistic, find some anecdotal facts to support our case, and we can think of some reasoning that justifies pretty much any bad idea. We’re all at risk of doing this – and it sets us up for high (and stupid) risks. Don’t get me wrong: being energized

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