Radical Candor

People or Idea?

What’s more important – people or the idea? When posed to a group, the response is usually 50/50. 

According to Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and author of Creativity Inc., the result means that people genuinely don’t know. The answer is people because ideas come from people. 

Ideas are just a thought or a suggestion for a possible course of action. The idea isn’t the end all be all – it’s the starting point for figuring out how to solve a problem.

Steve Blank and the lean launchpad approach does a good job of explaining the process for how to evaluate the quality of an idea. However, the hardest part is getting people to share honest feedback with you. Why? There are a lot of potential reasons, from not wanting to hurt your feelings to thinking they have nothing valuable to contribute. The good news is there is a way to get the feedback you need.

Ask people to speak candidly. That sounds pretty simple but according to Ed it is necessary. People want to keep their job, client or whatever relationship you have with them in tact and fear that their honest comments will impair it. Asking them to speak candidly gives them permission.

Be candid with everyone. ~ Jack Welch

Radical Candor

If you are leading change and innovation within an organization, Radical Candor is worth reading.

I read it while working on a difficult consulting project that had massive scope creep, tight deadlines, budget constraints, holiday breaks and a challenging political environment. If there was ever a time for radical candor – that was it.

I modified the framework from the book to the 3D’s: Discuss, Debate and Decide in part because it’s easier to remember and it works when everyone speaks candidly. If not, you will end up with naysayers and sabotagers.

The 3D’s

Discuss: It’s just about acknowledging the problem and generating ideas to solve the problem. Ideally, the group to build on each other’s ideas.

Debate: Once enough ideas have been generated and everyone has had a chance to mull them over, debate the merit of them. Things to consider:

  • The requirements
  • The impact and value to stakeholders and customers
  • The deadline and time constraints
  • The bigger impact to the organization 

Decide: Set a deadline and assign one person to make the decision.

If your stakeholders are strong decider types make sure they understand the process. A decision made before discuss and debate concludes will not be the best one. Tweaking is allowed after the decision.

According to Ed Catmull, executives need to protect those leading change and innovation – not the people managing the existing operations. It may be uncomfortable but change and innovation is essential to remain competitive.