In the corporate world everyone is a critic! Everyone! We’ve gotten really good at a learned behavior. No longer can we just send out a final product the first time. Why? Because everyone wants to trash it and change it, so it can be this really nice piece of plain old vanilla cake! Welcome to Corporate America. But you know what? This isn’t new. Critics have been around since Jesus, and critics have been wrong since before Jesus! I wanted to share with you some famous things that critics got wrong:
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1824)
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville (1851)
And the critics response: When Melville died in 1891, Moby-Dickhad moved a grand total of 3,715 copies…in 40 years! The below was typical at the time of the book’s release:
“…an ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition…Our author must be henceforth numbered in the company of the incorrigibles who occasionally tantalize us with indications of genius, while they constantly summon us to endure monstrosities, carelessnesses, and other such harassing manifestations of bad taste as daring or disordered ingenuity can devise…” -Henry F. Chorley, London Athenaeum, October 25, 1851
Animal Farm, by George Orwell (1945)
What the critics said about the book we all had to read in high school: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.” –Publisher’s rejection
Here’s what I know, true creativity in what we do, does not come from running our ideas through everyone and their brother for approval. If your organization wants your employees to be truly creative and innovative, stop pushing teams. Teams don’t make masterpieces. They can do some pretty cool stuff, but pure creativity isn’t one of them. We push “Team” so hard in HR and in most organizations it sometimes makes you think like this the only way everyone in the world must work, but it’s not. An HR Pro that can determine the proper work structure throughout their organization is truly valuable. “Team” isn’t always the answer, and you should have other tools in your toolbox.
You hear artist all the time say, “I don’t listen to my critics”. This is valuable in that they know listening to a critic will hurt their art. Unfortunately, in business, we don’t always have the ability/decision to not listen to our critics (who could be bosses, peers, friends, etc.). In business telling your critics to “Suck It”, could be a big career derailer! So, when do we go all “Suck It – It’s my project” in the workplace?
First, I would never suggest you approach it beginning with “Suck It”! While it will get their attention, it will also shut off communication. I think we all need the ability in our work environment to push back appropriately when you truly know you have something that will make a difference. But, it’s really about having the conviction to stand behind it and not let it get changed. That’s your indicator, “am I willing to put my career/credibility/bank of influence on the line for this idea/project/etc.?” If you are, it’s time to pull out the “Suck It” card and push forward. For most of us, this might never happen in our work lives. It’s rare to have to do this, if you find yourself doing it often, you’ve got an interpersonal issue to deal with!
I think what we learn over time is that not all of our critics are bad, and some actually might help truly make us better. The key is to continue to have confidence in what you do, without it, your work critics will make your work life less than artistic.