Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Say Stupid Things In MeetingsPosted: April 26, 2013
I say a lot of stupid things at work.
It doesn’t really bother me when I say stupid things because I also say a lot of smart things, and I figure that if I say enough smart things people will be willing to overlook the stupid things.
Well… what I actually like to think is that I say so many smart things that people assume the stupid things I say are smart things they couldn’t understand, but realistically this is just something I tell myself to make me feel better after I say something stupid.
I actually think it’s a good sign if you say stupid things once in a while, because it means that you’re willing to take risks. Sometimes the only way to figure out if an idea is really stupid or really brilliant is to put it out there and see what happens. If you’re not willing to risk saying something stupid, you’re never going to say anything brilliant.
I want to write about something stupid that I said in a meeting last spring, but there’s no way for me to explain the situation in any amount of detail without having this post pop up in one of the Google Alerts my company sets up to make sure my project isn’t getting bad press. So the painfully vague explanation is that when we were testing our equipment to make sure it would work once it was out in the field, I asked why we weren’t testing a specific combination of devices. The answer to my question was that I had gotten two different things mixed up, and that my question didn’t make sense. This made everyone in the room laugh. Including me. I made a mental note to try to pay better attention in meetings, and then immediately went back to blogging.
Now, nine months later, everything is in the field and failing miserably, and I realized that my stupid question wasn’t stupid at all… it was actually really smart. I had been thinking of things from a different angle that nobody had considered, and had I pushed back and clarified my question, we might not be in such a mess right now.
Actually, that’s not true… things would be a mess no matter what, but at least we might have seen the mess coming.
I’m not claiming that I had figured out the problem at the time, but I was on the verge of pointing out a glaring omission that ultimately became a major problem. But I let it go, because, well… I hadn’t been paying close attention and I don’t know very much about testing, so I assumed I must have missed some relevant details.
You may think that the moral of this story is that you shouldn’t blog during meetings, but it’s not. The moral of the story is that that trick where you say stupid things and people believe you actually works.
And that it doesn’t do anybody any good.