Be a Creator’s Advocate

No doubt this has happened to you. You have a great idea—or at least, you think so—and you rush to tell someone about it.

Their blank expression doesn’t match your enthusiasm one bit. And their first words, “But what about…?,” drain the excitement out of you.

Suddenly, you realize you hadn’t thought about that obvious problem. And it irks you. Quietly, you slip away. “What was I thinking?” you chastise yourself.

Whether they identified themselves or not, you were just hit by a Devil’s Advocate. They strike quickly. Mercilessly. And usually without warning.

It’s a well deserved title, for the role of a Devil’s Advocate is to destroy, often through relentless interrogation. Unfortunately, when you encounter one, even an unintentional one, more than just that idea is vanquished.

Critical thinking, when rightly applied, can amplify an idea, bringing out it’s best, or avoid a costly mistake by pursuing a bad one. But applied too early (unless in a life and death situation) critical thinking has other consequences:

  • Stifles better ideas. The best ideas are born on the back of other lesser ideas. Short-circuiting the creative process by being “the voice of reality” too early is penny wise, but pound foolish.
  • Suppresses interactions. Devil’s Advocates miss out on creative and interpersonal interactions. People are less likely to approach a known Devil’s Advocate with an idea until they know it can stand up to their scrutiny. Even then, they may avoid asking for their input altogether.
  • Discourages the ideator. Ideas too quickly dismissed can leave their progenitor discouraged. That’s because it takes personal risk to advance an idea and once that risk is taken, a quick rejection can leave them less likely to take another one.

Psychologists have discovered that the tone of any interaction is established within the first four minutes. In our home, we call it the first four minute rule. Only affirmations and positive statements are allowed in the first four minutes of seeing another. No questions like “Why didn’t this get done?” or “Did you remember to…?” when I come home from work. No “Here’s what I need you to do today?” lists when I see the kids in the morning before I leave.

Giving time to warm up the interaction before critical thinking is applied has worked great in our home. And it works great when someone is bubbling over with an idea as well. The next time you get approached with a new idea, trying giving that idea four minutes.

You might just develop a reputation as a Creator’s Advocate.

What side-effects have you experienced when your idea was dismissed too early by another?

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