Parroting Solutions

Karen Arnold

I read an interesting quote the other day that really struck a chord with me. Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has a “law” named after him. Joy’s law says:

No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else. – Bill Joy

The problem that businesses need to face is that given any particular problem you are trying to solve, the odds are that someone outside of the organization is the best person to solve the problem. Kind of makes you wonder why you should even try to solve the problem then, doesn’t it? This isn’t to say that you won’t solve the problem or can’t solve the problem, just that the best solution is probably not yours.

Now, you may not need the best solution, just a solution, in which case, have at it.

However, if you need the best then you need to be able to, at the very least, talk to the best. This is where consulting and research firms come in. While they may not be the best they may know someone who is the best. You need to keep your options open.

Here is the part that many organizations fail to understand. This law, that there is someone smarter working for someone else? This law doesn’t mean that the smarter person is outside of your organization, they may be outside of your division / branch / ministry but still within the organization. The problem is finding them. Sometimes the problem is accepting that this person exists.

When I was with Accenture there was a running joke that we would go into an organization, listen to what people said and then parrot it back to them. Since it came from a consultant it had to be good, right? If you do decide to go outside of your little domain in search of answers or knowledge, don’t be tricked by those who are only going to parrot you in order to gain your favour and thus prove that you were right all along. You need to find true consultants, true partners who are willing to give you honest answers.

There may be answers you don’t want to hear, but you need to hear them.  The idea is to expand beyond the boundaries you have put in place to see what other people have done with the same problem.  Take a look at their solution and, if possible, talk to the people involved.  Expanding the boundaries of your search will inevitably bring you a better result.

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