Shutup When You Are Winning

Throughout my career I have come up with solutions to software problems that, shall we say, didn’t resemble those of my peers. More than once, working code had to be replaced with “working but sub-optimal” code because my first solution was beyond them.

Sometimes, when a group is brainstorming for a solution to a problem, I would make a suggestion and get shouted down. And yet, the next day, someone else would have a brilliant idea, that greatly resembled my contribution of yesterday, only they got the credit, and this would get me angry.

From personal experience, I can tell you exactly how not to handle this situation: demand that you get credit. This doesn’t work because (a) you never said a thing yesterday, and (b) they thought of it all by themselves.

In the highly unlikely event that someone happens to remember that you did actually say something strikingly similar yesterday, the good idea will get tossed out, discarded, thrown away, because you just reminded them of all the bullshit reasons they nixed it yesterday.

The correct way of dealing with this situation is:

Shutup when you are winning.

If they are using the best solution, and you originated the idea, but someone else gets the credit, don’t sulk, don’t rant. The right answer is being used: you win.

Occasionally sanity rules (cough) and the idea it isn’t nixed, and you even get a little credit, but someone other than you is championing your good idea, shutup. Maybe chirp “hey, that’s good” at strategic moments, or a very few very terse “steering” comments. You want to avoid any semblance of ramming it down their throats, even gently with kid gloves and a sprinkling of sarcasm itchy dust.

With a nod to  Stigler’s Law of Eponymy (thanks Brendan).

Planting Seeds

This innate human behaviour can also be turned to your advantage.  I call it planting seeds.  One by one, you drop into the office cubes of your team mates in the “inner clique” and offer some observations, small ideas, suggestions.  One of them is even the right answer.  Seed planted.

At the next team meeting, someone other than you, someone in the “inner clique”, will have this brilliant idea, and it will be one of the seeds you planted.  Do not start yelling that it was your idea, just smile and watch the seed sprout.

This also works on non-technical people, too, at things like sporting clubs and progress associations… plant the seed, and water it when it sprouts.  It is even possible to “plant seeds” in family members who want to renovate their 1970s kitchen to be 1950s retro.