Don’t feed the trolls – Splash247

Steven Jones, the founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index, with some useful advice on how to nurture ideas in your organisation.

One of the best things about working in the maritime industry is the fact that it is so ripe for new ideas and thinking. The worst bit is the tendency for entrenched ideas to push back. This is especially true when older heads sometimes think that there is more value in playing “whack a mole” to the visions for change, posturing and trying to justify either their own beliefs or deep-rooted views.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a just such a worrying and disappointing trend of late. I call it the rise of the living dead…where leaders from the past decide to come out and dismiss or decry the efforts of others.

These zombies seemingly hunting out new ideas and innovations, so they can feast on the brains and hearts of those trying to do good things. LinkedIn seems to be an especially important hunting ground for the zombie leaders – they can sit back on the cushioned comfort of the plaudits of the past and pass ill-informed judgements and calls on all manner of topics.

With no real skin in the game, they can flail and condemn as much as they like. Though this is not solely an online phenomenon – in committee meetings and board rooms, I have sadly looked on as respected senior after respected former leader gets the wrong end of the stick and runs off with it like a rottweiler, shaking innovation to death.

It is all the more damaging and disappointing because we need the lessons of the past to be shared, and we desperately need the shoulders of giants to stand upon as we look to make positive change. To be told that a project will never start, and if it does start it will never finish is not overly constructive.

We need to find, somehow, the mechanism that allows young, yes maybe inexperienced people to bring forth ideas, visions, plans and schemes, and to have them supported and guided to success. Not cut down like so many green shoots meeting a Flymow.

For those trying to drive change to have access to wisdom, to be able to learn the lessons of past ventures, and to know how we have reached certain points is vitally important. I value so much the knowledge of those who have gone before, just as I recognise the importance of the energy of those on the rise.

Ideas need nurturing, visions need focusing not blocking. Those who have held senior positions, and those who have the knowledge, contacts and insights need to be encouraged to share, not to flex what is left of their corporate muscle to bemoan, decry, dismiss and even troll. That is no use or help to anyone.

As global shipping trouble-shooter James Wilkes commented, “It is easy to say ‘No’ to new ideas and fresh viewpoints”. He has a great rule for everyone around the table, you have to find five positive things to say about an idea before you’re allowed to say one negative thing. Framing a discussion that way, he says gets more productive outcomes. Certainly sounds better than the alternative of five negatives before even thinking of any positives that some pursue.

My message across the generations would be that if you feel there are lessons to be learned from past efforts, then share them. If there are different approaches which can work, then raise them and help guide success. Just because something didn’t work in 1979 does not mean that it cannot work today. Conversely, perhaps we need to make sure we are better at bringing everyone into things together. But until then, we all have a responsibility to either be helpful or silent.

No one needs to know someone thinks your idea is flawed, they need to know how it can be made to work! There is of course value in spotting problems, but that value is exponentially increased if such wisdom can also deliver solutions too.

So, if in doubt be positive, be supportive, if you have concerns ask for more information, and if you have lessons to share, share them. Don’t be a Dooku, be a Yoda, and good things you might bring.

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