As Marci Segal points out, an angel’s advocate is someone who sees what’s good in an idea and supports it. We all know how to help out by playing the “devil’s advocate”: we generally sound out the shortcomings of an idea. The term is a euphemism for skeptics to critique. Don’t be fooled. The quickest way to kill an idea is playing the devil’s advocate.
When you hear a new idea, be an “angel advocate” and find ways to promote and build the idea. Challenge your teams to have angel advocates, where they find at least three good reasons why a new idea will work, before the devil’s advocate starts to speak.
This may sound much easier than it is. Psychologically speaking, some people are just wired to find troubles with any idea. When we live in caves and hunted mammoths, humans needed a good dose of skepticism to stay alive. Trying a new cave or a different hunting ground could kill you and the rest of the tribe. And nothing can die quicker than a new idea.
New ideas need protected. New ideas are like seedlings, and a harsh word, sometimes even the smallest raised eyebrow or the unbelieving sigh, mows down an idea in an instant. When you spend a moment protecting the idea and building reasons why something works work or can improve, the new idea gains momentum. The idea grows, expands, develops, and blooms. With each idea, new possibilities occur.
Help an idea become a reality. Stop for a moment and think of three reasons why it will work or how to improve an idea before describing why something won’t work. Tell others what you’re doing and ask for their help in doing it too. Also, give the caveat that the Devil’s Advocate can always have a chance, but the Angels gets the first turn. You’ll find that positive ideas will catch on, expand, and illuminate from you and around you and your team.