As usual, I was reading a “this day in…” journal entry of mine, from a too-recent year. I found one of my unfortunately-too-frequent pages of pissed-off scribbling. And just smack-at-the-bottom was this:
If something is important, DO IT NOW,
if not, DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT.
Clearly that’s a kissing-cousin to the Eisenhower “method”. Partly, I like to sprinkle in Wikipedia links to see how easily you are distracted. But more so in this case, because it isn’t even Eisenhower’s idea.
Where might I tattoo this? I was thinking directly on my corneas would be a good place; The first half on one, the second half on the other. It would be like those “floaters” you find in your eye. It would be a true, subliminal message. (Grammar geeks: It would also be a truly subliminal message.)
I can think of no situation where that guidance would fail me, because the sub-text is: What, right now, is actually the important thing to do? Maybe taking a nap, or eating popcorn with a movie, really is important [for my mental health]. Or maybe the important thing is to up-end my day and go all-in helping someone do something.
Maybe the tatoo should be: IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Pop quiz: Grab a writing instrument and write, in cursive, the word, “scribbling.” For an extra 5 points, write in cursive—on the first try, without looking it up—the capitals: H, K, Q and G.
Being asked to generate this kind of realistic solution requires letting go of the childlike fantasy in which one can have all upside and no downside. It requires really digging into an issue, developing a depth of understanding that goes beyond drive-by feedback. As the officer quoted above observed, by mandating that any critique be coupled with a counterproposal, Ike’s policy “made for more careful scrutiny and analysis.”~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/sunday-firesides-never-criticize-without-offering-an-alternative/
Not long ago I thought that this arrangement—requiring realistic solutions be provided when criticizing current ones—was unhealthy. I thought that it also led to people generally not speaking up when they saw a problem. But I now see that there are two different scenarios: raising issues and providing criticism.
“Always bring me problems,” is an important policy. It encourages people on a team to speak up when they see something they believe is a problem. The team then benefits from everyone’s perspectives, a culture of openness and honesty is created, and even when mistaken less-experienced people learn from their practice at assessment of problems. This is a different scenario than the one of criticism.
One of the hallmarks of constructive criticism is that it provide alternatives. In this scenario it is not sufficient to simply point out flaws or problems. To encourage deeper understanding each person must be challenged to find an alternate proposal. Doing so requires each person to understand the goal and the realities which constrain the possible courses of action. This type of constructive collaboration, where criticism is of the idea and not of the person, is where teams can really multiply the impact of the individuals’ efforts.
To put it as a spin on acting improvisation: Where improv instructs us to avoid, “no,” preferring, “yes, and….” Constructive criticism requires, “no, and….”