Never Tell People How To Do Things - True or False? - The Brilliance Mine

Never Tell People How To Do Things – True or False?

How do we use well-defined and documented processes that lead to excellent and consistent results AND make room for creativity and ingenuity?

Consider the quote by George S. Patton. “Never tell people how to do things, tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Is this advice true or false?

In this nugget, I want to talk to you about this quote by George S. Patton. “Never tell people how to do things, tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

I think there are two things here:

  1.  One is we talk all the time about how we do Brilliance Mining and Brilliance Extraction and then develop training systems that contain the best of the best practices. We ask people to follow these processes so that we get consistently exceptional results. 
  2. How does this Quote by Pattonfit into that? That’s a great question. I think there is room – there has to be room – for people to be creative. 

An Analogy: The Fruitbowl

Perhaps this analogy is helpful. Think of a big bowl full of fruit. The bowl represents the processes that are already well documented. We ask our people to follow them consistently, not “break” them. If someone thinks of an improvement to the process, we ask them to make suggestions to improve the process rather than breaking it.

Then, there’s the inside of the bowl. Let’s say there are various types of fruit inside the bowl, like bananas, oranges, apples, etc. The fruit has lots of degrees of freedom to move around inside the bowl. 

This is, I think, where this quote fits in, “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” 

It is a yin yang, once again, between 

  1. Systematic processes that have been documented. These processes are the norm, the code, and the convention in your company because they embed the secret sauce, the best practices that have been found thus far. Remember, they are living and breathing. 
  2. One avenue for creativity to come in is: If someone thinks of a better way to do something, then examine it, discuss it, and then embedded in the process if you find that the suggested improvement is valuable. Beyond that, there must be room for creativity. That is also going to keep your company at the cutting edge. I 

Following established processes and being creative is sometimes at odds with each other. But I think you can find ways to have them happily live together.

I’m Curious

How do you handle the yin-yang between people following documented processes and best practices and giving them room to be creative and ingenious?

Stephie Althouse

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