Destroying the roots of innovation

1 06 2016

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” ~ Frank A. Clark

When you give a person a task, it’s valuable to give them the destination, but not the route.  You may know how you want it done, and you may be tempted to tell them HOW.  In some rare cases, it’s required to do it a certain way (i.e. due to regulatory requirements, partner needs, etc.), but often, you have a goal, and you should let your team accomplish it their way.  If you do that, you might just find a better way of doing something than “the way you’ve always done it.”

Of course, you want to warn them of pitfalls of doing it certain ways.  There’s no reason that they should make the same mistakes that you did, if you can avoid them having learn from them – the hard way.  That said, when they do fail (and everyone fails sometime), take that opportunity to show how they might have done it better.  Your criticism should be gentle, or they may just ask you do tell them exactly how you want it done the next time.  Don’t stifle innovation by destroying their roots.

Speaking of destroying…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.




One response

10 06 2016

A good thought on productive use of criticism. I’ve found similar things when learning to fly – well-intentioned criticism can undermine confidence, whereas someone who understands the self-criticism already being inflicted can turn a mistake into a real opportunity for growth and learning.

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