MYTH #2: “My team needs to spend MONTHS of work creating a perfect solution”

“To err is human; to forgive is divine. ” This dictum is accredited to Alexander Pope (1711), who wrote it in his poem An Essay on Criticism, Part 2. When it comes to teams, our humanity is stretched to its limits simply because there is nothing perfect in the human realm. Perfection usually smacks of an end-product that can no longer move forward or improve. More perfect is an oxymoron. We all try to do things better but we never reach perfection; there is always something “better” with innovation.

One of the stumbling blocks teams face is the difficulty members struggle with trying to sort out too many personal opinions or off-the-wall extraneous ideas that slow discussions to a crawl. Precious time is spent on detailed clarifications demanding endless explanations and feelings of frustration. Progress is often painfully slow and boredom triggers disengagement.

Rather than better – certainly not perfect – we best consider innovation as growth and development. A human at any age is beautiful and “perfect” but still growing; even old age can be beautiful and gracious, though not perfect.

For a team, then, a goal is not perfection. A team is the dynamic process of seeking innovative ways to move development toward new growth. And this is brain power, brain growth. The neurophysiology of the brain that has been discovered only within the last 25 years is what is called neuroplasticity. The brain changes every moment with every new experience.

Teams are the accumulation of multiple brains joining their neuroplasticity to discover new ways of looking at products in development. Because the brain works in nanoseconds, the speed of insight is incredibly fast.

This is the contribution of David Kelley, Academic Director of Graduate Studies at Stanford, who found IDEO with Tim Brown who coined the term Design Thinking. Both Kelley and Brown understood the velocity of brains in the process of thinking. This brain speed had to be harnessed with disciplined steps. Their methodology was sketched in three simple words: desirability (human factor), viability (business factor), and feasibility (technical factor) that open teams to innovation.

From the concept of Design Thinking there developed the tools of Design Thinking that compresses endless discussion lasting days and even months into several hours spread out over a week of disciplined design.

Teams, therefore, have tools for compressing lengthy discussions into efficient design by effectively processing their methodology into well-defined steps of engagement. Fortunately, the design thinking process builds in the possibility of error. Because the process is insight-driven, errors are tolerated and recognized quickly. This is facilitated by a culture of psychological safety whereby every member of the team is free to express one’s thoughts freely without fear of criticism. Alexander Pope blessed human error with divine forgiveness.