How often do you hear, “Let me play devil’s advocate?” Once a week? Every other meeting? You might think there’s good money in the devil’s advocacy, but have you ever heard someone say, “Let me play angel’s advocate for a minute?” Probably not. We’ve all certainly heard the “devil’s advocate” invoked and, for innovation purposes, all too often. But can you actually play “angel’s advocate?”
I’m writing a book on “Conversations for Growth”, and it focuses on how innovation teams amplify weak signals, nurture slow hunches, and build up new possibilities— a process that often requires the better angels of our nature to come forward.
I’ve completed nearly 50 interviews thus far and one of the patterns I’ve noticed is that gifted innovators are always angel’s advocates.
Ask yourself, how often do you say phrases like: “I like that.” “Tell me more.” “How might we …?” “What else is possible …?” “What are we missing?”
These are phrases that create space and safety. They push away fear, uncertainty and doubt, if only for a few moments. They encourage fresh insights to emerge, change form, and turn into surprising combinations with breakthrough potential.
Of course, the shut-down phrases are always lurking in the shadows:
“We tried that before.” “Yes, but …” “That doesn’t work.” “The fact of the matter is ..” “That’s all well and good, but …”
It’s one thing to avoid these contra-phrases — new concepts need protection from these early judgments but they also need encouragement and coaxing. That’s where angel’s advocacy comes in.
Have you heard innovators using phrases that protect and encourage new concepts? If so, drop me a note. I’d love to hear ’em, so I can both include them in the book and use them on my own growth projects!
Message me: firstname.lastname@example.org