Last week, I shared how inviting judgment can and should be a critical part of any creation endeavor; how judgment is really just data plus emotion. And we shouldn’t reject the data simply because we’re not equipped to process the emotion in a constructive way.
Now, a word of caution…
Being open to outside opinions and data does not mean “surrendering” your intuition.
It’s important to invite feedback, but it’s also mission critical to maintain enough of a strong sense of independent vision and leadership to know when the whole damn world has got it wrong and you’re the only sane person in the room…even if that means you’re viewed, for the moment, as the bastion of lunacy.
Every new paradigm breaks an old one.
And the people who create, push, massage and shape these new constructs are inevitably viewed as nut-jobs, at least in the beginning. In part, because new paradigms necessarily unseat long-held “comforting” beliefs, and along with them the long-seated creators of the last big paradigm. And often, entire institutions, bodies of work and worlds.
Disruption is the seed of evolution. And innovation its spawn.
This causes pain both to those who find solace in the way things are and those whose reputations and often livelihoods are based on preserving the status quo. So, feedback in the guise of pure opinion is often unwittingly (or quite intentionally) motivated by the desire to avoid the discomfort of disruption.
It’s your job to prod people into a zone of exploration and experience they didn’t know they were missing until it dropped into their world. Starting with yourself.
So, yes, feedback is an important element of creation. But not all feedback is valid, not all data is useful and not every person, however brilliant, well-read, hailed and regaled or purportedly endowed with the omniscience and good taste to be right all the time matters in the context of your creative process.
Between banal and genius lies a morass of opinion, most of it wrong.
Witness this fascinating study reported in E. D. Hirsch’s The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them:
Students have long believed (on good evidence) that if the same paper is submitted to two teachers in two different sections of the same course, the paper is likely to receive two very different grades. In 1961, Paul Diederich and his colleagues proved that this student belief is no myth. When 30 student papers were graded by fifty-three graders (a total of 15,900 readings), more than one third of the papers received every possible grade. That is, 101 of the 300 papers received all nine grades: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, and D. Diederich also reported that
94 percent [of the papers] received either seven, eight or nine different grades; and no essay received less than five different grades from fifty-three readers. Even when the raters were experienced teachers, the grades given to the papers by the different raters never attained a correlation greater than .40. Diederich, P.B., French, J.W., and Carlton, S.T. “Factors in judgments of writing ability.” Research Bulletin RB-61-15. Princeton, N.J.: Educational Testing Service, 60 pp.
This wasn’t about how smart or accomplished or qualified the graders were, it was about straight-up, pure and simple subjective interpretation.
Part of our job is to ask. But the other part is to filter, synthesize, curate, integrate, disregard, pivot, act, combust, create, evolve. Put another way, listen, but don’t supplant.
Where does this leave us?
The world needs the crazy ones far more than it needs gardeners of the status quo.
So, be open to a “leaner” process that allows for input and insight, rapid iteration and evolution in the name of accelerated learning.
Be open to the possibility of your hunches and assumptions being proven wrong.
Be open to the need to change course, to the possibility that what got you here won’t get you there.
Be open to feedback, to judgment, more specifically judgment built not just upon opinion, but upon fact.
Invite experience on a level that allows you to validate (or invalidate) hunch with data.
But, also be open to the possibility that while all the input, insight and data may lead you down the road to a faster horse, if your gut keeps telling you a combustion engine awaits in the ether, then the ether is the place you need to brave.
Judgment be damned.
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