Good idea, bad idea…

November 3, 2012

Another installment in SEP’s 2012 Blog Battle.

I’m lucky enough to work in a place that’s fertile ground for ideas. There’s freedom in the work and the work environment. People aren’t punished for trying things. We have good resources at our disposal.

Part of my role is to help people in and out of SEP explore their ideas. My typical approach is principle-based: compare the possible implications and likely outcomes of different approaches against the things they care about and see if it’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ idea.

Between Cynefin and Lean Startup, I’ve been rethinking that. Most of the ideas I hear deal with complex problems or systems. An organization of people with differing goals and experiences, the interaction of large business processes, etc. These aren’t complicated problems, where we can work out the answer if we’re really smart or experienced with the topic. There just isn’t a direct cause-effect (other than the ones we delude ourselves into believing).

Thinking about principles or quality standards (Disney does this well) is certainly a good thing, and particularly effective for eliminating obviously unsafe approaches. But to really get to good solutions, we need to experiment, adjust (or in Cynefin terms, probe, sense, and respond).

So enough with judging ideas…let’s do some validating.