The Good Idea Fairy
We’ve all had that experience. You know the one: you have something that happened, whether it’s in or out of your control, that leaves a visible mark.
Run and hide
After my foot surgery, I had to use a knee scooter for a month. I couldn’t run and hide (literally). It’s like anyone within 10 square miles of my location sought me out to share their stories. I heard about their own experience using a scooter, or their daughter’s experience, or their son’s best friend’s next-door-neighbor’s dog-sitter’s experience. You get the idea.
Everyone who saw me seemed to be an expert on my condition. They couldn’t wait to tell me about it. I almost dreaded going out in public. I knew I was going to get stopped by at least 3 people who can’t wait to tell me how I should live my life now. This human urge to consider yourself an expert simply because you’ve experienced something once doesn’t stop at medical conditions.
Welcome the Good Idea Fairy
In the influence sphere of continuous improvement that same urge drives people to become the “good idea fairy.” These people may be a stakeholder or simply bystander. They may or may not have experienced a situation like yours. In their minds, because they have done it once, or so they think, they must be the authority and so they tell you how you should handle your situation. You don’t want to stifle continuous improvement culture. But you can approach your response to this in a few ways.
You could simply discount their advice because you don’t know them, or maybe you do but believe they don’t have any authority or expertise; they just might have valid advice. You could hear them out but still have prejudice about their advice because you already made up your mind on your course of action. Could their unsolicited advice have some merit? You would never know now because your bias clouds your judgement in this case.
However, you could listen to them with an open mind. Yes, it will probably be a drag on your precious time because you must incorporate this into your already busy schedule. We at CII think this could very well be to your advantage in most cases. You can use their interest in your problem to create efficiencies in your problem-solving methodology. If you turn their advice and motivation about your problem or project back on them, you can subtly utilize them to devise a creative solution for the problem. If they are directly involved with the issue at hand, they may even solve their own problem.
It’s always best to keep an open mind when given unsolicited advice. Yes, it is irritating. When everyone considers themselves an expert just because they’ve experienced something once, it’s challenging. But it’s possibly unwise to simply dismiss that advice out-of-hand. They may just be onto something that you can’t see. So, turn this situation back on them. Force them to be the hero of their own problematic story if they are involved or if they aren’t, create an unwitting hero for someone else’s problem. Either way, they’ll all thank you in the end.