Posted on March 16, 2014 by Kate Hammer
An interesting discussion on what happens when the average person is faced with radically new concepts.
When we propose a novel concept that disrupts cherished assumptions and tacit expectations, we need to expect hidden criteria to surface. Hidden criteria are the crutches decision-makers lean on as they attempt to block something truly disruptive because it is frightening or de-stabilizing….
…. Hidden criteria are the opposite of explicit criteria. They hide in plain sight, until an activity or event teases them into salience. When they surface, hidden criteria take the form of verbal dismissals – “that’s rubbish” – or feints like “I don’t get it” (head shaking slowly). Sometimes they’re even fainter: blank stares, shrugged shoulders. Only rarely do hidden criteria get put into words…
… Sometimes, hidden criteria mask a hidden agenda. “We say we want X but, really, we want Y.” Other times, hidden criteria indicate there’s a value gap. Author and Research Professor Brené Brown, Ph.D. explains:
“The space between our practiced values (what we’re actually doing, thinking and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think and feel) is the value gap”….
… Recognizing hidden criteria
It’s not a surprise that hidden criteria surface in the face of novelty; it would be weird if they didn’t.
Here are the telltale signs that a boss is mustering hidden criteria:
• s/he won’t give an idea air time, won’t allow a meeting or presentation or pitch to be scheduled
• s/he starts interrupting the presentation, usually with questions or comments that flatten the positive responses group members may be showing towards the novel concept
• s/he uses body language and silence to show group members that their curiosity or interest in the novel concept isn’t welcome
• s/he outright rejects any comment that would reframe or add context to the novel concept, from a team member brave enough to speak up
Building a matrix of support
As innovators, we have a choice. We can cave-in to the murky logic that hidden criteria try to impose. Or we can work within what psychologist Howard Gardner calls a “matrix of support”.
Here are four ways you can build a matrix of support, to counter murky logic’s corrosive effects.
1. Share early and often, so that acceptance finding for a novel idea is happening ahead of any meeting where a boss might grow defensive.
2. Stand in the boss’s shoes and from there, dream up all the rebuttals s/he might imagine. From there, you have the choice whether to equip your allies with the responses they’d find most helpful to shore up the case.
3. Thank your boss for creating the creative space in the first place. Find the genuine contributions s/he has made to the breakthrough thinking (be that framing the commercial imperative, inviting new ideas, flexing business-as-usual workloads).
4. Model the behavior you seek. Use tools like PPCO to put some rationality back into idea evaluation.
In the matrix of support, “clean logic” may not govern decisions but at least it’s present.