Tactics for getting people to join in
It's critique time here at CMU, but actually its really happening all the time. As well as some of the School of Design's work, we've been looking at the Tangible UI group's work, and have been on the ETC's
Building Virtual World jury.
More than a few times we have been asked about how to get people to buy into an idea or a process that one of our clients are working on. Usually our reaction is that if you're getting them to buy in, its a bit late, and something that looks like an engagement strategy is what's needed, and usually earlier in the process.
It's amazing how much we are connected to each other in getting things done, and how that makes what we think is our project to happen is only a minor part of the work. We used to run a workshop for the Helen Hamlyn research associates at the RCA on valuable maps for projects, and we used stakeholder mapping as a live tool to understand motivations, power balances and forces, and to keep on top of this over the duration of the work. I don't think many people believed it was of much value when we did it, but I know that as the work went on, just that insight and perspective put them in a different space with respect to those they needed to engage in their work.
People can adopt different positions around looking at ideas, and we evolved ways to work with them.
Let me critique that for you
There is the interesting position of the critic. This is often confused with criticising. Punch hole in things. Break it & prove yourself smarter than everyone else. Many managers think that it is their job to do this, and mistake this for 'kicking the tyres' which is a highly valuable practice. Roosevelt nailed this:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
I personally cringe when someone starts a response with "well, I'm going to be Devils Advocate here…" and lose almost all hope. If that is the most imaginative position they can take, well, we're in for a truly exciting time! There are many different positions to take, and they have value - you can use different positions as specific lenses to help people focus on aspects in their feedback. There's more than good cop, bad cop. De Bono does this with 6 hats, EDS (now a part of HP) did this with another (proprietary) method, but you could make up your own…and invite people to explore them deliberately.
Sometimes people will damage something by simply being unengaged. They don't have to do anything negative like blocking or speaking out against an idea, but they don't do anything positive either. So decisions don't get made, endorsements don't happen, and its like some passive negative space around any progress being made. It looks friendly, but it isn't - there is a lot of fear and hostility there too. That's the part to attend to - how it does not mean the loss of status, or that they will not be loaded with something that takes resources or attention from them.
We have used tactics like getting people to think the idea was theirs in the first place. That in itself is interesting, but its even better when they start to build on the idea. When they start to imagine themselves in the idea, and it starts to generate energy and dynamism. One reaction is to resist the change, but then why do you want them to join in in the first place? Design a space for them, and they can engage. Make it complete & finished and all they can do is critique.
We're working on a new idea, and there are people who could stop it from happening, others who want to join in, and lots who can benefit from it being in the world. Sometimes people confuse being in the first group with being in the other two.
All you can do is to lay things out so they can find their way there. Or find a way around them altogether! After all, not everyone is going to find it valuable, and that might just be how it is. So just do it anyway.