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Embrace your Negative Nancy

No one likes a naysayer, but sometimes she can be the most valuable person in the room. Too many business teams shoot the messenger instead of listening to the message, Megan McArdle states in a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek essay.

“As a young IT consultant, I sat through more than one meeting where we, or someone, tried to stop a client from doing something obviously crazy. Usually, the result was that the client did something crazy and that someone went looking for another job.

“Talk to turnaround experts or read a little history and you’ll hear this story repeatedly: There were people who raised the alarm, and they got shouted down.”

Without question, someone who is constantly shooting ideas down can crush creativity. Says McArdle, “You don’t want to let the perennial Voice of Doom” kill every project. But if you listen carefully to the Voice of Doom, you’ll find he’s giving you something extremely useful: a list of almost everything that can possibly go wrong with your plan.

“Instead of ostracizing your Doctor Nos and asking them to kindly shut up, why not give them a designated role on the team, telling you what’s likely to go wrong, and then pointing out when it is?”