I am Going to Challenge That

I’ve had a funny day today. I am a bit sick and so was pottering around. I picked up a book from the shelf by Joan Freeman called How to Raise a Bright Child. This paragraph got me thinking.

Personality and outlook are just as important for success as IQ. In fact, if a child is aiming to be a self-made millionaire then a highly developed IQ, which could lead to much time been spent in university, and thought processes being trained to criticise rather than construct, can be a positive hinderance.

A light bulb switched on in my head. Many people at my clients, especially at the banks, have a reflex they simply cannot suppress. When hearing an idea, good or bad, meaningless or not, they say, ‘I am going to challenge that’.

My clients are full of really, really smart people who have indeed, as Joan said above, spent loads of time training their mind to criticise but not create. This reflex to challenge, to criticise, is how 10 very intelligent people can spend a full day together and not make one single decision. Not one. It's how software programs stumble along without realising anything interesting. It's why people are burnt out, chewed up and spat out.

The truth then behind the statement, ‘I am going to challenge that’, is sinister. It’s the reflex that stops progress. It’s the reflex that more than often belittles. Worst of all, it’s the reflex that coerces people into not speaking up, into not taking creative risks. This is why I can say, with my hand on heart, that if any one at Container Solutions said this they'd be fired. Fired into next year and then hired again so I can fucking fire them again. This is because we’re in the construction business, not the criticism business.

Scrum, Mesos, Docker - none of these interesting tools can overcome the reflex to criticise. Teams with these tools who have the critical mindset will get nowhere. The key to progress lies not in tooling but in letting go of the reflex to speak up when one should in fact shut up and listen. This one lesson is enough to get teams moving but it's a lesson that's hard to learn...

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