April 30

No one wants to appear incompetent or naive. It’s one of the worst fears that many people have. So they keep their mouths shut even when they have a hunch that could be helpful to others. Often, this dynamic can paralyze a team to the point that no one is willing to share an idea. Everyone seems stuck, but the reality is that no one wants to speak first.

In these situations, someone has to be brave enough to toss out the first dumb idea. I realize it’s uncomfortable to do so, but the willingness to appear foolish is sometimes an act of creative bravery that opens the floodgates for more and better ideas to follow. Once people think “Well, at least my idea isn’t that bad!” they will be willing to share their own.

A few caveats:

This only works in an environment of trust. If you don’t trust your teammates, this technique may lead to bad things. You’ve been warned.

This works best if you have a track record of good ideas. People know that you’re not incompetent but are just trying to kick-start the conversation.

When stuck, be brave enough to toss out the first bad idea. It won’t be the last.

Have you ever felt too paralyzed to share an idea in a meeting? Why?

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