Red Lights and Disdain

I was lazily browsing available smartphone apps yesterday and stumbled on one that, though I did not want it, I immediately recognized its value. When started, it turns the smart phone screen bright red. That’s it. No words, no animation, no other function. “Useless!” you might say. And one of the review comments below it disdainfully said so, vulgarly dismissing the app and its author. “Poor fellow,” I thought, “arrogantly judging the value of something based solely on his limited understanding, as though his knowledge were the standard against which all values should be judged.”

But isn’t that what we do more often than we might admit? Before we get all the information, we judge and dismiss ideas or even people without a qualm. I’m pretty sure I’ve done it. How about you?

For anyone who has ever worked in a photographic darkroom or with a telescope at an observatory, the critical value of a red light to see equipment, adjustments, dials, instructions, and star charts without destroying one’s ability to see faint stars or ruining photographic paper is well-known. How ingenious for the app creator to turn that smart phone in his or her pocket into a compact flashlight that is readily available whenever needed! No more squinting at the markings on the telescope, trying to see them in the light of the distant red bulb. No more wandering around the observatory trying to find the last place s/he or a colleague had placed the normal red flashlight. Just pull the phone out of a pocket, punch a button or two and aim that wonderful, bright red light at the work!

Understanding precedes valuing. Wouldn’t it be better to ask questions to achieve understanding before deciding if an idea or a person could be helpful? That is a habit good leaders practice naturally. There is admittedly still a challenge to know when enough understanding is enough. But attempting to understand will beat immediate dismissal any day of the week.

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Leadership QuickTip Application Question: What could you do today to improve your understanding of an idea before dismissing it as “not applicable to this situation”? Find one opportunity to dig a bit deeper to understand an idea someone presents or that you read in a book.

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