A while ago, in the glorious days where wearing a mask while walking into your local bank branch would have triggered a frantic 911 call, someone sent me a one-liner in response to a longer email exchange about failing, learning and taking feedback:
When someone tells you something is wrong, they’re almost always right. When someone tells you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong. (*)
It’s catchy. It feels right. It’s perfect for a quick tweet – even slips through the old character limit of 140 chars by a hairs width of two letters.
And yet – something is off with this (at least for me).
I am a strong believer in my colleague Paul Saffo’s famous (and sadly often misused) mantra of “Strong opinions weakly held”. If you follow Paul’s logic you want to allow yourself to reassess your opinions continuously and without judgement. Not selectively listening only to those who provide their feedback in the most general sense, but also to those who might have walked in your shoes and can save you a lot of pain and effort by telling you exactly what you ought to avoid and what to better do.
My friend and co-creator of all things be radical, Jeffrey Rogers, likes to point out that one of the most important skills of our times, is your ability to ask better questions. Which also means that you not only need to ask better questions but also listen to all the responses you get.
So – do have strong opinions, hold them weakly and seek out wisdom where you can find it. And if someone can save you a job by telling you how to fix what is broken – maybe just take her up on it. :)
(*) The Interwebs tells me that it was Neil Gaiman who said this.