Using Doubt For Good BusinessDoubt as a tool for success? This is probably not the first thing you think of with doubt. Most people try to avoid doubt or chastise themselves for even questioning their own abilities or their decisions. But what if this is really not about undermining your performance? What if there is something more going on here?

Valeria Maltoni (founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) and I got curious about doubt after reading an article by Dan Pink, Can We Fix It Is the Right Question. Dan Pink used Bob the Builder to show how introducing doubt help create a good answer for your business. Pink also cites a research study that explains that “interrogative talk” rather than “declarative talk” are more likely to produce better performances. So all those affirmations you tell yourself may not be the best way to do your best. It seems to be more effective to ask yourself, “Will I do this?”

Well, with all of this in the background, we knew just the people who could grapple with the idea that doubt was more than a paralyzing emotion so we let the #kaizenblog community have at it. (You can read the whole transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – Doubt!)

What are the pros and cons of expressing doubt about ideas/strategies/methods? This question seemed to set the stage quickly for an active conversation.

  • Market Art (@X_youarehere) seemed to express humour and (maybe) some anxiety- “Is Dr. Fud here today? He is the authority on this too-common technique.,_uncertainty_and_doubt
  • Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum)- “A1 Pro: opens up process/goals for exploration and new ideas. Con: sows uncertainty about abilities.”
  • Anastasia M. Ashman (@Thandelike)- “A1 Expressing doubt about strategies/ideas/methods shows you have a grasp of downsides/ineffectualities.”
  • Anthony Liang (@liangtfm)- “Q1 Pro: it lets you re-think through the idea/strat/method and see if it’s really the right way to go.”
  • Christine Fife (@chrissfife)- “Well, one obvious point, expressing doubt makes you come across as negative.”
  • WDYWFT (also know as and @WDYWFT)- “Pro doubt-you might uncover some reasonable judgement, Con doubt-you might not get idea off ground. Look at what-then how.”
  • Jeannie Walters (@jeanniecw)- “A1-I think big PRO is authenticity. We all have doubts. It’s okay to express them”
  • Bruno Ceolho (@bcoelho2000)- “Just make sure don’t get paralyzed by doubt and use it as an excuse.”
  • Paul Pruneau (@Paul_Pruneau)- “Doubt is what needs to be overcome by data or evidence. Both take hard work.”

There was some back and forth throughout this part of the chat about whether expressing doubt was really about negativity or a more simple uncertainty. In the midst of these tweets were other thoughts that doubt could lay the ground for further understanding, better solutions, and humility.

  • MaryAnn Halford (@MaryAnnHalford)- “how you language your doubts can make it more proactive versus negative.”
  • Diane Court (dc2fla)- “With big stakes initiatives (& small too) there is always uncertainty. Good leaders encourage raising concerns, unknowns, risks.”
  • Bill Lublin (@billlublin)- “The devils advocate is doubt-without doubt we have mindless optimism and bad planning.”
  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO)- “To paraphrase Northrup, better to assume we’re 1 step above apes than 1 below angels. Doubt gives room to grow.”

Despite how fascinating this part of the conversation was, it was really time to take a look at the possibility that there is a dark side to positive thinking. With positive thinking being urged on us all, how are we creating a taboo for having/expressing doubt? Even within the #kaizenblog chat, you could see people trying to determine whether or not doubt sucks our motivation and leaves us with a poor sense of self-efficacy or even paralysis.

  • Sian Phillips offered this concern,”…Surely if you doubt yourself that brings in negativity which is not good?”
  • MaryAnn Halford- “I think it is more than being self-critical – I think it is more likely healthy skepticism.”
  • Laura Crum- “A2 – we sometimes eliminate forums for expressing doubt, making it difficult/socially sanctioned”
  • Stephen Denny- “Q2 Positive thinking isn’t always smart, is it? You need critical questioning w/o the personal attack that often accompanies it.”
  • Rich Becker (@RichBecker)- “Doubt is the wrong word. I prefer a path of extreme openness to prevent us from becoming entrenched.”

There seemed to be a reframing that doubt could mean nothing more than uncertainty or perhaps even reflection. Doubt, in and of itself, seems to be hard to tolerate.

How does doubt introduce conversation about how specific business problems could be handled?

  •  Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI)- “Doubt can be balanced view ~ not so much you stopped from doing anything”
  • Valeria Maltoni- “You need to use biz resources wisely. Cannot always try/do all to know if it works”
  • Patty de Larios (@PattydeLarios)- “Doubt in business (should) open the door for different points of view”
  • MaryAnn Halford- “the “doubt” conversation needs to focus on the analysis and how to leverage it to make things possible”
  • Craig Wiggins (@CraigWiggins)- “First is “Should we”, then smart people can figure out the “how”. Start with the q: ‘is it worth doing?’ “
  • Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing)- “Having such a conversation opens minds for fresh ideas, identifying weak links in the chain”

There was an interesting thread in this section about how BP could have responded differently if they used doubt in their internal conversations with more regularity. If someone in a different section of your business (ex. engineers at BP) provides information that might illuminate how things could go badly, would you allow that into your thinking and conversation before the final decision is made?

In the final part of the chat, humility was introduced as a a piece of how one might be able to use doubt. What is the link between humility and doubt? This turned out to be a tough question to answer in 14o characters.

  • Craig Wiggins- “Real humility can accept the doubts of others without defensiveness, and be open to being ‘wrong.’ “
  • Anthony Liang- “You have to know how to bring up questions for conversation rather than arguing/plain disagreement”
  • Diane Court- “Humility means one openly listens, considers questions/doubt & credits team for resulting improved process”
  • Patty de Larios- “Humility is like saying “Many roads lead to Rome.” It’s knowing there is more than one “right” way”

This chat was remarkable! It was something to see everyone play, experiment, and discuss the idea that doubt does not automatically mean a negative and using it effectively actually betters the business. While writing this recap, it was difficult trying to decide which tweets to use as there were so many important points made. Read through the transcript (posted above) to see all of the ideas.

How is doubt really another part of critical thinking?

What do you believe about doubt and how do you use it in your business?

Embedded in this #kaizenblog chat was the suggestion to do a Tweetup. If you would like to do this, leave a comment and let’s see how we can organize this geographically. Can’t wait to meet you all in person!