This is more a note to self than anything else. Often I get invited to adjudicate pitching competitions for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. My approach has always being to be objective and basically act a devil advocate by asking critical questions.
When I really thought about this concept of the Devil’s Advocate, it hit a nerve. I do it all the time; I say…”I’m just playing devils advocate, but ….”, by which, of course, I mean, “I’m about to be really critical and negative, I’m going to undermine what you just said, and please don’t take this the wrong way…BUT…..” .
I’m not alone in this; we all do it. Sometimes we do it to ourselves, we become our own devil’s advocate. We come up with a brilliant idea, project, initiative and then our inner critical voice plays the devil advocate. We criticise ourselves out of that idea. For the most part, we feel like we are doing a service; We then say: “Man! I might have developed that idea and got it really far before I thought of that problem! What a waste that would have been.”
Often, I have realised that it’s the devil’s advocate is at fault for ideas not being implemented. He’s not called the devil’s advocate without reason; The Devil is dangerous, and being too afraid of failure is dangerous too. Jump, I say. Take a risk, let your mind roam free without inviting the devil’s advocate in. Not always, and not forever. But for a while at least.
The point at which we bring in the devil’s advocate into the innovation and idea process is really the key. If we bring him in too early, we restrain the flow too much and cut off avenues that deserve exploration. If we bring him in too late, we risk all that time wasting we fear so much.
Let’s not uninvite the devil’s advocate altogether, maybe just tell him the party starts a little later, and that he is welcome then.
99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity is not coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you have thought of.
The devil doesn’t need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics.
Seth Godin said it very well when he said: “Uninvite the devil’s advocate, since the devil doesn’t need one, he’s doing fine.”
Have fun with your ideas without the Devil’s advocate. Why not? It works.