• Viva Sarah Press

Everyone needs a devil’s advocate: How an objection to our idea helped us for the better


The majority of people who hear about our project like our idea straight off the bat. Some aren’t fully sure of what we do, yet don’t ask for an explanation. But one person took profound aim at our idea and dismissed many of the explanations we’d come to rely on.

It was the best thing that could have happened to us. It forced us to reframe our descriptions.

Our idea is solid.

Our initiative was being dismissed not because it is faulty or weak. Our objector’s doubt came about because she needed more information.

She spoke of many concerns and objections. Listening to her, I “heard” her perspective. She felt we were missing the mark on numerous angles.

Getting defensive wouldn’t help. Waving the fact that we’re already breaking ground and succeeding would have been just as useless.

The Center for Creative Leadership notes that “caution, skepticism, judging, and dismissal may be understandable — and typical — responses to new ideas. Yet those responses kill innovation.”

I argue the opposite is true if you know how to listen to what the objector is really trying to convey.

Our objector – from her perspective—had very valid criticism. I saw her objections as questions in disguise.

And while I had an opportunity to respond before I did, I actually asked to wait. I wanted to hear more. I wanted to hear all the dismissive things (problems) she had to say about our initiative.

And when she had finished explaining her cynicism, I knew exactly what facts, figures and data she required.

We needed to highlight certain information we had kept in the backdrop. Her playing our devil’s advocate helped us redescribe our validity and strengths.

Upon hearing the old facts and known data served in a different light, she understood the potential power of our idea.

The chance meeting with this protester made us rework explanations of what we do. See our descriptions from different perspectives. There was never a need to change what we do. But explaining how we do it, obviously, wasn’t as impactful as it is now.

Her objection definitely helped us for the better.

#innovation

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