A Culture of Helpfulness

I was inspired by yet another amazing TED Talk by Margaret Heffernan. When it comes to problem solving and improving ideas, products and services, she presents evidence that a culture of helpfulness "routinely outperforms individual intelligence". As she eloquently describes this culture of helpfulness, she notes that it is not for the faint of heart because it will include plenty of conflict. But as she says, "Conflict is frequent because candor is safe." This is a culture that I'd like to cultivate.

I'd like to invite you to help create a culture of helpfulness. An environment where we all have a chance to share our ideas. And instead of being fearful that someone will shoot them down or resort to name calling, we will have a supportive community who will help us understand and test the the limits, greatness, and necessary improvements needed to make our ideas viable. We may even find that some of our ideas need to be let go, but that will be a safe, fun thing to explore! Here's how we can do it.

Here's the idea: "Helpfulness means I don't have to know everything, I just have to work among people who are good at getting and giving help" (Heffernan). So, first, we need a large, diverse community of generous, honest, resourceful people, like you!

Second, "What drives helpfulness, is people getting to know each other"(Heffernan). So, spend some time on your favorite Facebook pages, and blogs. Comment freely. Lets get to know each other. Resist the temptation to unfriend or disengage when another person's perspective diverges from your own. And when you have a chance, go to seminars, lectures, and other gatherings.

These social connections lead to the next important ingredients to a powerful culture of helpfulness: candor and open communication. As I mentioned earlier, conflict is a necessary, healthy part of this culture. Heffernan says it the best: "This isn't about chumminess and it's no charter for slackers because people who work this way tend to be kind of scratchy, impatient, absolutely determined to think for themselves because that's what their contribution is. Conflict is frequent because candor is safe. And that's how good ideas turn into great ideas. Because no idea is born fully formed. It emerges a little bit as a child is born: kind of messy and confused but full of possibilities. And its only through the generous contribution, faith, and challenge that they achieve their potential."

So settle into the scratchiness, camaraderie, and wonder and lets get this culture going so that we can get our ideas out there, clean them up, nurture, and test them. Even ideas that don't pan out are valuable leaning opportunities. No fear, candor is safe (That's going on a T-shirt).