Ideas are a work of art

When you think about it, most of us in the IT field are paid to solve problems. Sure there are some routine tasks that we do that don’t really require us to think a lot. But for the most part, I’m convinced that we solve problems for a living.

Do you disagree? If you don’t believe me, think about how you spend your day.

  • “We need to roll out the latest service pack to all client desktops.” You figure out a way to make that happen.
  • “The network is slow!” You break out your network diagnostic tools, figure out why, and fix it.
  • “We need to represent and capture this business information in a database.” You interview the stakeholders and create the entity relationship diagrams.

See what I mean? We solve problems for a living. And that’s good. As long as there are users, there will be problems to solve.

Offering a solution

Often when we provide solutions to problems, we just do it. These are typically straightforward solutions that don’t require a lot of input from others. There is no approval process required. The elegance of the proposed solution is not reviewed, much less questioned. We are trusted to do our jobs and implement the solution. If we fall short, we’ll receive some feedback.

But not all solutions are like this. Many require us to put our thoughts together and creatively come up with a solution either as an individual or as part of a team and then present our solution to others.

Shotdown in flames

When you present your ideas to others for review or approval, there are really only three possible responses.

Yes! Yes!
Your proposal is met with unbridled enthusiasm. They really like it and are eager for you to proceed. You walk away from the meeting smiling. This point really doesn’t need much more discussion. All is good.

Uh, maybe.
Your proposal is met with what can only be described as a certain lukewarmness. The review committee or decision makers are somewhat skeptical but they give you tacit approval to proceed. And although they are less than convinced about its outcome, you can still knock their socks off by proving that it works by exceeding their expectations. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and show results.

What were your thinking? Moron!
Sometimes, though, they actively, openly, and perhaps passionately dislike or even disdain your proposal. And they demonstrate little, if any, self-censorship in telling you why. Sometimes they even use colorful language to describe the ways they think the idea is bad. Your balloon is deflated. Your parade, rained out. Did you hear that clap of thunder off in the distance?

Paint a new picture

It is in those times that I like to think of my ideas as works of art.

Art can be a beautiful thing. But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I may think that my proposal is wonderful. It’s great. It meets all their requirements and is all but guaranteed to have overwhelming success. It’s beautiful!

But they may see it another way. Their perception may be different. They may not like it at all. They may start shooting holes in it immediately. And this can hurt if my pride is wrapped up in the proposal, if my sense of self-worth is interwoven into the solution.

Think of it this way. If I’m holding this solution, this piece of art, right in front of me, close to my heart, I’m going to get hit when they start shooting holes in it. There’s no way around it. I’ll take the hits and it’s going to hurt.

But if I’ve decided to hold the piece of art off to one side when I’m presenting it, I’m safe. If they start shooting holes in it, I’m not going to get hit. It passes right through the art and continues on. I’m standing safely beside it.

That’s what we need to do with our ideas. Think of them as works of art. You may appreciate them, but your client or boss may not. No worries. Just set down the solution and create a new work of art based on the feedback you get.

Remember that you are not your ideas. You have self worth and intrinsic value regardless of what other people may think of your ideas or even of you. You cannot control what they think or how they act. But you can control how you respond to them.

Separate yourself from your ideas. And most importantly separate yourself from what others think.

So what do you think? How do you cope with negative feedback to your proposed solutions?

Joe

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9 Responses to Ideas are a work of art

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Ideas are a work of art « WebbTech Solutions [webbtechsolutions.com] on Topsy.com

  2. Are you saying that ideas *are* a work of art or are you saying that ideas are *like* a work of art. I certainly agree that ideas can be aesthetically pleasing but IT professionals are more craftspersons than artists. If we start allowing IT solutions as art, I’m afraid the word will cease to have any meaning.

    Sorry, back to the topic. Negative feedback about solutions I propose are usually backed up with objective reasoning and are hardly ever a matter of taste. So while I do take any feedback about my own work personally, after discussion I can sometimes change their mind or just as often have my own mind changed and it’s rare that a consensus can’t be reached.

  3. Joe says:

    Thanks for the comments, Michael.

    My examples were a bit extreme. What you’ve described is a bit more typical.

    My point was really more about the analogy. If we think of our proposals as a canvas painting and we hold it right in front of us (close to our hearts) then when other shoot holes in it, we’ll get hurt. If we hold the painting off to the side (not putting our sense of self worth in the proposal) then we’ll be fine.

  4. Jen McCown says:

    And I get where you’re coming from; I’ve long recognized my shortfall of falling in love with my own ideas. But you know, artists are pretty passionate about their art, just like I tend to be passionate about my solutions. And to a degree, rightfully so.

    We’re hired to do our job well, and push back when another’s agenda is trying to override the good of the database. Of course there’s a line to walk – your job is also to please your boss and play well with others. But a little passion for good solutions can go a long way toward the good of the data, the company, and you.

  5. Joe says:

    Jen – You make a good point. I think we can and should be passionate about our jobs to an extent. And that would include our ideas by extension.

    But, on the other hand, if you’re too passionate about it, if you’ve placed too much of your sense of self-value into your ideas then when someone stomps on one, you’ll inevitably become disillusioned with your job as a result.

    I think I can be passionate about doing and great job and coming up with great ideas without really putting too much of an emphasis on what others think about them.

    It may sound a little self-involved, but really it more about realizing that others don’t control how you feel or your sense of self-worth.

  6. Maciej Gren says:

    I agree with you. We are mainly working on solving problems for our clients. In my opinion, there are two levels of creativity – solve problems when they appear (I level) and solve problems that didn’t appear but they will (II level). I level of creativity is more than welcome on daily basis. II level is rather treated like exaggerating. I have such ‘problem’ but still I believe that my ability to find solutions for something that will happen is good. That is why I’ve created my blog – http://usemyideas.com where you can use my ideas :) that are solutions for some issues that are existing.

  7. Joe says:

    Very cool, Maciej. Thanks for sharing the link.

    You’re right. We work hard to put out the immediate problems, but it’s even better to prevent them from ever becoming problems. Good point.

  8. Pingback: The Importance Of Managing Expectations « WebbTech Solutions

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