I was recently reading one of those humorous lists, you know, the ones that start with “You know you’re a grownup when…”. One of the items on the list was this: “that horrible moment in an argument when you realize you’re wrong…”
It got me to thinking about what a different experience it’s been working with a team of experienced, innovative engineers. At APPCityLife, we have our weekly status meetings, and most of our status meetings involve at least some, shall I say, vigorous discussion about design implementation, solutions for a discovered problem or priorities on our roadmap. At first, the vigorous nature of these discussions made me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t like confrontation, and as a newly formed team, I wanted us to get off on the right foot together.
Then I discovered something about the process of those discussions. Here is what happens:
Each team member sitting around the table argues for their point of view, and they argue vociferously for their perspective to be the one adopted. For anyone observing, it might look like a heated argument, but it isn’t. It’s a step in the process of finding the best outcome. This dynamic is so important, because if an idea cannot survive the criticism of our peers, it has no business becoming the right solution.
The minute a member’s solution is punctured with an irreparable hole from another team member, something interesting happens.
In normal arguments, this is when things get really interesting, and by really interesting, I mean really uncomfortable, awkward and angry. This is when someone goes into overdrive and starts digging through the laundry basket of accusations to change the discussion from the topic at hand to personal attacks.
That doesn’t happen with our team. When one of us sees a flaw in their own argument, they readily and almost happily, abandon their position and begin assessing the merits of the other ideas being presented. The best solution can only be arrived at when all parties involved care more about the integrity of the solution than they do their own pride or their need to be right.
As one of our team recently remarked, “If you haven’t ever been wrong, you’ve never had the chance to learn something. How sad would that be?”
This is a great method for producing the excellent technical design, but it’s also a great method for working through any problem to the best answer.
When we want the result to be right more than we want to be right, we all win.