Disclaimer: This blog is not about the mystery thriller starring Al Pacino but about a concept which was there always in front of us but was overlooked by most of the organizations in the history.
In the morning today, I was reading an article about how companies like Amazon, Dell, HP and other big organizations, especially who are best in their product/service categories are still failing in their new initiatives. These companies want to expand with their new innovation strategies but all of that is going in vain and the big question for them was ‘why’. Let us take an example of ‘Apple Inc.’, Steve jobs has also faced the same issues when he was working on the very first commercially successful and innovative music player called “iPod”. Even the product was innovative, he was having demon dreams of failure because of consistent criticism he faced during the development of the product.
So what was the problem?
When a company is working on a product, there are so many times when a team discuss about the features and respective functionality of the product. What happens generally is in a group of five, if an idea has been proposed and four out of five have liked the idea, there is a very high probability that the fifth team member will fall as prey and like the same idea as well. This is part of human unconscious mind again where a team belong to same product will think in the same direction and finally can come with a good product but not a great one due to absence of a great predator aka “Devil’s Advocate”.
Let’s see below what Wiki says about “Devil’s Advocate”
“In common parlance, a devil’s advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position they do not necessarily agree with (or simply an alternative position from the accepted norm), for the sake of debate or to explore the thought further. In taking this position, the individual taking on the devil’s advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such a process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or abandon the original, opposing position. It can also refer to someone who takes a stance that is seen as unpopular or unconventional, but is actually another way of arguing a much more conventional stance.”
Now since we understand the definition, let’s see how we can relate this to the concerns which are revolving around us. Most of us have probably heard about the questions on the quality of their product delivery. Generally, there are so many instances that people did work hard but end up in a poor rating or just satisfactory rating. The reason behind was generally considered as poor demo presentation or lack of features and certain reasons like that. But if we ask ourselves, besides presentation, there are certain other aspects where the quality is also getting measured apart from regular checks. Let’s take an example of what one of the team in Prowareness has tried a video based self-explanatory demo, and following that another team tried a cartoon/comic sketch based demo. If we evaluate them then these are one of the great examples of innovation but have we acted on them sincerely or are we as a different team member tried the same way to woo our clients. The answer is no, we might have tried a different hands on the demo but we never tried the successful ones and with this same approach we failed at most of the instances. In other words, it is the same situation where we can conclude that the innovative product has failed most of the times.
How can we make that innovation successful?
The answer is by appointing a devil’s advocate. With the help of a person (who is not aware of the product that you are developing but know how to see a “could be flaw” in your approach) who can ask you the right questions and the non-sense questions because we have to accept that there is always sense in non-sense too. The person can help you and the team to explore the horizons and most efficiently produce the product without the conventional approach. That is where Steve Jobs became the “Devil’s advocate” in his organization and we know the rest about the quality of any apple product.
Note: Some people might argue about certain facts but the facts presented above are just indicative and are relating the real time scenarios to make sure the real understanding of the concept.