second set of eyes
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How a Second Set of Eyes Boosts Individual Productivity

“When I saw the mom’s lunch on my calendar yesterday morning, I wanted to cancel, but I’m so glad I didn’t.” As my friend spoke these words, I anticipated her next to be around the value of unplugging or the benefits of connecting with others, but I was wrong. “Tweens,” she continued, “are SO hard to shop for, yet every mom at the table had at least one solid holiday gift idea for my boys.” This exchange, well specifically my friend’s feedback, I decided, was the perfect topic for a productivity blog post. Her experience was proof positive that collaboration boosts individual productivity. She’d benefitted from proactively recruiting a second set of eyes on her holiday gift-giving challenge.

A Second Set of Eyes Facilitates Novel Idea Generation

Brainstorming is another word for the idea generation that took place at my friend’s lunch table. Diverse women provided input on a challenge they shared: tween holiday gifting. Novel thinking generates novel concepts. I presume each of the women had been working on their gift lists prior to the lunch. So when each shared what they’d come up with, they broadened the list of ideas for all in the group.

This concept works in the professional realm just as well as it does the personal. Even individual contributors benefit from bouncing ideas off others; companies, too. This is one of the valuable benefits of joining a trade group. Similar operators are likely to face similar challenges and listening to the ways another company solves problem X could provide you with valuable feedback.

I regularly share my ideas and marketing concepts with Nancy Kruschke, my business partner at Productivity Training Academy. She does the same. In addition to our partnership, we operate separately within the same industry. As such, we’re up to speed on the concepts and challenges inherent to the business. Though it’s not always necessary, if you can find people within your trade or area of interest to bounce ideas of off, the feedback you’ll get will be that much better.

More Eyes Reduce Opportunities for Mistakes

I have a friend who’s passion is funny typos. She works for a church. Recently she caught a typo in the church bulletin, in a section that was promoting small groups one could join. Among group names like “Heart to Heart” (young married couples) and “NEST” (young couples with children) she found “Boob Club.” Ooof. Tactfully, she noted that a “b” had been inserted where a “k” should have been. I’m certain the pastor was thankful this friend had been asked to proof the bulletin prior to it being printed.

If you don’t want to make a boob of yourself (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), ask for a second set of eyes on your written copy. Proofreaders are pivotal. When you’re immersed in your thinking, you’re not looking for the small details. There’s a scientific term for this — generalization — and it’s actually cognitive optimization. Our brains are focusing on the more complex task at hand: getting our concepts nailed down. They’re not checking the spelling. What’s more, the more you look at something, the more likely you are to miss something. Hence the value of fresh eyes.

It works the same for processes and policies. When you are nailing together the structure, you’re not likely to catch all the varied viewpoints or consider every nuance. So, once you’ve drafted a plan, illicit feedback from others. And, if you are able, illicit feedback from stakeholders.

A Second Set of Eyes Will Enhance Your Communication

As was illustrated with the boob (ok, I’ll stop now), getting a second set of eyes on your draft copy will enhance your crucial communications. Beyond typos, with a preliminary read, you can gauge the effectiveness of your word selection and structure. We’re typically naturally wordy. Being neither emotionally nor cognitively invested in the drafting process, your proofer is better positioned to spot redundancies and other unnecessary elements in copy. Furthermore, they can ensure you’ve adequately positioned your words for your intended audience.

Collaboration Boosts Productivity

I went to find a good quote to include in my closing. I landed on one from Helen Keller: Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. At first I paused at using Helen Keller’s words, considering the title of this post. But then I decided it was actually perfect because it fully underscored my point. With a second set of eyes, we not only steer clear of pitfalls, we also boost the potential of our output.

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Most people are honored to be asked. Where you can, create a symbiotic relationship where you evenly exchange being the second set of eyes. In a related vein, don’t shut out the opportunity to enhance what is already working. Ask how others are handling a common opportunity or challenge and listen to what they say.

Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop.  She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.

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