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April 21, 2016

Protect the Positive

Protect the Positive

In his book Creativity, Inc. Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull says that his favorite line from any Pixar movie is this one spoken by food critic Anton Ego in the movie Ratatouille:

We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.

When I read this I immediately thought of the responses we get to The Pickle Challenge for Charity. There is always a solid core of people who are really excited about it and jump right in to pickle jar decorating contests and other activities to promote a more emotionally positive culture (see examples here). This often includes people who up until this point have been perceived as being less than positive by coworkers and managers.

But there is always a (usually fairly small) core of “critics” who say that decorating pickle jars and “fining” people a quarter for whining and gossiping is silly and childish.The criticism is, of course, technically accurate – these are things we all first did in kindergarten.

But the criticism is also irrelevant. By definition, what we are doing now to assure an emotionally positive workplace culture is not working. If the organization wasn’t afflicted with toxic emotional negativity (as reflected in whining and gossiping and other forms of toxic emotional negativity) there would be no need for or interest in something like The Pickle Challenge.

But that is never the case. We have never conducted a Culture Assessment Survey at an organization of any size or in any industry that did not have room – usually a lot of room – for improvement on this score.

The single-most important determinant of whether an organization is successful with The Pickle Challenge – and more important, whether it has a lasting impact on people who take it to heart – is whether enough people have the courage to stand by the creators who are working on decorating pickle jars and other “kindergarten” activities to help foster a more positive organizational culture – and in the process raise money for a great local charity.

So if you see someone in your organization trying to do something constructive and courageous to foster a more emotionally positive workplace environment, don’t be a critic – be a friend. Because the new needs friends.

See examples of creative ideas from organizations that have implemented The Pickle Challenge for Charity at this link.

Download a flyer for The Pickle Challenge for Charity at this link.

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