Strong Opinions… Loosely Held

When you’re feeling your way forward in new territory, it can be challenging to make a decision knowing that you may look back and realise you made a mistake.

What if it feels like the right thing to do today, but in 6 months time someone hangs me out to dry because we’ve realised the wrong thing to do?  Or you have to change your message because what you used to think no longer applies?

It can be a lot of pressure, especially if you’re pushing transformation on your own.  People have high expectations in change – any departure to the familiar had better be “right” because the hurdle to get over changing the way work is so high.

Humans are creatures of habit and we don’t often adequately assess the risk in our status quo – but we’ll definitely pick all the holes in something new.

Well this week I’m encouraging you to be brave, to take that first step and keep moving.  This is stepping into the vulnerability we all feel when we’re transforming business and I promise it’s good for you 🙂

Video Transcript and Relevant Links

Hey so I was talking to a girlfriend this week about some struggle that she’s having in her business, and something she’s really wrestling with and she keeps putting off again and again and again.

When we got down to the root of it, she said “I think the reason I’m putting it off is because I have this fear that if I put my opinion out there, then I’m going to be held to account for it.  Not so much that people will disagree with me, but if somebody comes back to me in three years time, and I’ve changed my mind… I don’t want to be held to what I was thinking three years ago!”

So we were having a bit of a laugh about this whole mind game that goes on.  And it occurred to me that it’s something I see again and again and again when we try and make change in organisations as well – we can sometimes get really scared to make that move, or to make that decision, because we’re worried that we’re gonna be, in some way held to it and attached to it, for the rest of forever.  And that’s not the case.

It reminds me of when I used to work for a wonderful consulting firm over in Melbourne called Thoughtworks, and we used to have this thing we’d say “strong opinions, loosely held”.

And the culture within that organisation was very much about, have an opinion, voice it.  But equally people would be quite willing to change their opinion if they came into contact with information to the contrary, or they found something new – we were quite happy to switch at that point, take on that new idea, and run with it again.

It strikes me that it’s one of those things that’s really critical if we’re starting to talk about building a workplace that embraces positive conflict, and embraces the diversity and the discourse that we need to make better decisions.

And it also reminded me of a great little tool that I’d come across, I don’t remember when, but it was talking about three stages of learning.  How when you first come up with an idea, first start learning a new concept, you’ll often hold onto verbatim what your teachers are talking about – and you need to hold onto those ideas and parrot things back.  There is a line, and we follow the rules, we follow the guidelines, because we’re trying to learn the system, the method.

Then we get a little bit further on in our understanding and at that point we’re able to parrot back the texts from others, we’re less open to absorbing new information and we start to ask others to play by the same rules that we’re playing by, because that’s the new method and we’ve decided that is now the right way to do things, this is now the new way of working.

We get really rigid in just preaching these rules and that replicating of the text book and the parroting back of those rules becomes really quite intrenched.

And then as we move a little further along down the path, what we often find is that people get to a place where they understand the rules, they understand the concepts, but they’re a lot more fluid in the way that they’ll go about interacting with other people.  

It’s ok to have challenge at that point, because you’re anchored in a foundation of understanding the concepts of this particular idea set or this way of working; you’ve digested them to a point that you understand beyond the words on the page, you understand the meaning around them, you’ve had life experiences where these things have played out and you’ve been able to learn on a deeper level those foundational parts of these new ideas.

So that’s become part of you, and who you are, you can ground into that.  And then the challenge comes from various directions, but you welcome the discourse.  Because at that point you’re grounded in knowing what you know, but you’ve also learned that, you probably know very little in the greater scheme of things and you’re ready to open up for those new ideas, for that new thinking to come in and then to grow and evolve from there.

And so if I think back to that girlfriend who’s sitting there going “Ooooo I don’t want to be held on to this for too long, I don’t want to be attached to this forever…” I really love that idea of strong opinions, loosely held.

Go out there, put your opinion out there, try it.  If it doesn’t work, or you learn something new along the way, then we can jump on to that and run with that idea.  But don’t ever lose that passion and that fire, and start backing off because you’re worried you’re going to be held to account to something for years and years to come.  Things change, we know that.

I’m Danelle Jones, please scroll down and leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you, and go out there and smash some goals this week!

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