Ever been excited with a new idea or technique only to be confronted with these common refrains?
“That will never work here…especially with my customers (teams or products).”
“That sounds good in the theory, but in the real world that idea is just not practical.”
“Might work for those types of projects (products or people), but we are different.”
To listen to colleagues and peers kill your passion without a word of dialogue is dispiriting and can feel like a punch in the gut. Over time, it wears down on you and you begin to edit your own ideas and diminish your own passion with their cynical filters. Eventually, you move from simple disbelief to oblivion. And oblivion is a bad place to be for an individual, teams and organizations. Oblivion is the waking death that is so beyond the run-of-the-mill apathy.
“You act according to habit, customs or business norms instead of mature thought, informed intention and creativity. When the inevitable consequences cause harm, you disavow responsibility for an unintended consequence.”
To me, oblivion is this desire to go along with what your peers and leaders say (or decide to do) to make things easier for yourself or others. For instance, you know a decision the group is about to reach is not the best, but you remain silent. Perhaps out a need for politeness or meeting efficiency, you do not offer you real opinion. Or perhaps you are afraid that a contrary option will reflect badly on you – there was about 15 minutes during the conversation that you were more interested in your mobile device than the conversation and and so maybe you missed something.
In the end, oblivion is this sense that you just do not care anymore – you don’t care about the product, the quality of your work, your relationships with your peers or the organization. Just follow the policies and procedures that others have laid out – no matter how crazy, stupid or diminishing they are. There is no point in asking a question, or objecting to them, because you have learned time-after-time that no matter what you say or do or think, nothing changes. Why show interest or invest in a new idea? It is all futile, so why try?
How do you stop this oblivion and wake the dead? Hope. Hope is the stirring of new life in people and reawakening their human spirit. Hope is the recognition that something better than the status quo of despair, cynicism and oblivion exists and that we are entitled as human beings to have access to an environment which provides autonomy, mastery and purpose. Hope is this belief that we deserve better, we just have to reach for it.
How do you create hope when surrounded by oblivion? Act with intention, integrity and mature thought in all your interactions. Declare to yourself what you want and then take rational steps to achieve it. Many of these goals you can achieve on your own without asking permission, others you may have to ask for help from your peers and colleagues. In the process of asking for help, disclose the intentions behind your actions. Finally, stop doing things you do not believe in and start taking personal responsibility to fix the policies, procedures and practices that do not make sense.