Be Open To New Ideas From Anyone

Class consciousness is incredibly limiting. (Excerpt from Unite The Tribes: Leadership Skills for Technology Managers)

A good idea is a good idea no matter who it comes from. There's a class consciousness in the creative world of technology that isn't terribly surprising given that we're dealing with humans, but it's certainly limiting. In a software shop, programmers are the ones who come up with application ideas. Should those of other occupations make a suggestion, they're either ignored or at best patted on the head in a condescending manner.

For a number of years I was married to a woman who was also in the software business. In fact, she'd been at it a lot longer than I had. She worked in Quality Assurance, which we call QA for short. In other words, she was a professional software tester. This also made her an expert in using software and seeing things through the eyes of a customer.

I've been in shops where they had a QA department and it always surprised me to see their opinions dismissed out of hand in design meetings, if in fact they were invited at all. The attitude in general is that if you're not part of the group who actually slings code, you really don't know what you're talking about. This is not only dumb, it's unprofitable. You're throwing away a valuable perspective.

Of course, this extends far beyond just the QA team. It's a pretty safe bet that anyone who works at a tech company uses a fair amount of tech in their daily lives. That may not give them the ability to design something cool and bring it to life, but they'll often have some specific ideas about features or other benefits that are certainly worthwhile. After all, the ultimate expert on the value of your software isn't the person who wrote it but rather the one who uses it.

Arrogance and class consciousness isn't just rude. It's incredibly limiting. People outside your cult will see the world in ways you could never imagine. If you truly want to innovate, you should look for ideas in places your competitors neglect. Get to know people outside your circle and listen to what they have to say. It's a secret weapon that few are wise enough to employ.

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