I'm following the LinkedIn trend of "things I carry" here. God I need a personal blog.
I don't carry an arsenal of pocket goodies, briefcase belongings, or personal consumption accessories to work. In fact, I keep my pockets mostly empty (aside from a train pass, my wallet, and a Smartphone), my working possessions live in the office (hence I don't carry a bag), and I always seem to lose any nice pair of sunglasses that I'm given. At this point, I'll just let my retinas burn.
But apart from what I "don't" physically carry to work, I do carry an emotionless and honest passenger. It sounds dark, depressing, and cold, but it can help to understand and expose the barren truth of an idea or concept. When I entered a new job in the past, I was the first to suggest change, the first to question the static choices that had been cemented into the company menu. When my superiors attempted to suppress any one of these thoughts, my interest in an emotionless and honest opinion waned in favor of being the 'positive' and 'supportive' employee. I feared that I was the 'disruptive' and 'misguided' wannabe innovator who didn't have the lifetime experience to make those types of observations. Surely I've had some annoying and irrelevant ideas that I've pushed over the years in my career quest, but I've recently learned the true value of that "blank slate", and why I shouldn't be suppressing it in fear of being loathed by superiors. Perhaps I'm just a wimp, but we'll put that aside.
After my last company, I began to see the true value in disruptive and honest thinking. An emotionless and honest opinion (in smaller doses, mind you) based on the current static conditions (from website messaging to product pricing), was a tremendous advantage that I could bring as a new (and seasoned) employee. Once I arrived at my current position at Temperature@lert, I immediately dissected our history and past innovations, and without stepping on toes, put together a preliminary assessment of where we stood (a bit like a consultant). I brought a fresh pair of eyes to a roundtable of certainty.
Once I had gained additional confidence in my company and our competitive landscape, I began to take the emotional latches off of my thoughts even further. I began to see our products in their true form. I was able to reposition my mind to become a customer, and as many incredible companies (UserTesting.com for example) are doing, made several conscious efforts to simulate a customer's journey. And most of all, I took these ideas to my superiors without fear of suppression and was confident in the honest observations that I mashed together. I had done my research, I had gathered my thoughts, and I had taken a hard, emotionless look at every facet of our business
The blank slate that I'm talking about is essentially an ongoing mental notepad, a third ear in every meeting or call, and a reminder that emotional attachment (particularly to a company or product) can skew the realities of what a customer or prospect might actually experience or see for example. Put another way, it's a pool of skepticism, a collection of ideas that stands contrary to what is ingrained or bypassed by our 'positive and progressive employee' persona. I believe most of us have this within, and I wouldn't discourage it, but this persona grows stronger with an increase in tenure, our ability to step outside of the 'tried and true' box shrinks. Take this idea with a grain of salt; I wouldn't suggest questioning the value or necessity of a successful product, and I wouldn't encourage an overhaul of new thinking for every monthly budget meeting or roundup. All I'm pushing for the bottom line, the truth amidst comfortable attachment and interaction. This invaluable pool is where innovation can happen, where truth can settle, and where emotion is extracted from evaluation. A juror must do the same thing when weighing evidence in a criminal case; emotion must be removed from the equation. I carry the slate with me wherever I go, making additions and observations as I absorb industry knowledge. It's a deep and sensitive pool, but truly worth a thoughtful dip every so often.