I was thinking about the middle path and two types of people came to my mind – optimists and pessimists. I went back in the memory lanes. As an innovation consultant, I was a part of a Summit on Innovation. Few of the workshops in the summit were on “Culture of innovation” in organizations. Everyone agreed that we need diverse team for innovation, however, everyone agreed that we need to engage only energetic and optimist members in teams. I asked myself; Why are we categorizing people as optimist and others? Does innovation require labeling people and then creating teams? In other words why we – as innovation consultants – are agreeing not to have diversity in team? Even in systematic innovation drives, we need people of different thinking styles and opinions.
I asked myself let me define ‘pessimists’, to see if my questions make sense in team composition for innovation efforts? According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, pessimist is one who has an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or expectation of worst possible outcome. Pessimists are those who negate or say no to anything because of their experience, knowledge, logical, old understanding or mere negative thoughts. Does it mean that they shouldn’t be a part of any team on say innovation efforts? I have heard somewhere – if an optimist makes an airplane, pessimist makes a parachute. Pessimists could be extra-cautious and introspective people, isn’t it?
In fact, pessimist is needed at places, because he/she may help improve solution with a “no” for many solutions. For example extra-cautious people help device seat belts in cars, safety values in pressure cookers, exit strategy in project/business plan. This “no” trigger teams to look beyond the horizon and ideate. Pessimists are the people who can be a great part in defining the problem and creating more challenges around the problem by questioning and negating. They endow the team with a new dimension to assumptions. It is well said – a problem clearly defined is half the problem solved. So do we not need pessimists, in defining problems? Pessimists can be a good help in exercises like heuristic redefinition and forward and backward thinking of the team because when they drive their thought process they also have an eye on the rear view mirror. I have heard – “Ideas of pessimists have saved more lives then ideas of optimists”, do we not need a balance in innovation teams?
Pessimism is one face of a coin, other is optimism and a coin cannot exist without two faces. A good leader and an innovation team is one where best out of pessimists is utilized for improving its performance. Isn’t it right that we need pessimists… too!
Copyrights KRD Pravin