Grit in the Oyster

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September 2013

Grit in the Oyster
Do you have people around you who will “tell it like it is”? Perhaps their feedback isn’t necessarily the “way it is”, but at the least, it’s the way they think it is. You need a diversity of perspective around you in order to improve and progress. Sometimes the commentary you hear doesn’t have the sweet sound of support as you might have come to expect, but the value of dissenting opinion can turn out to be a jewel. You need feedback in order to be extraordinary.

If I may borrow some phraseology from our friends in the UK, “grit in the oyster” is illustrative language that can describe feedback’s life cycle. In the world of marine life, a foreign substance as small as a grain of sand can find its way into an oyster and embed itself in the oyster’s inner lining or mantle. As an adaptive biological process, the oyster forms layers of scar tissue around the small foreign substance. After a time, those layers of scar tissue form what we know to be a pearl. This end product has become a metaphor for something fine, admirable and of high value.

Feedback and dissenting opinion can ultimately end up being a gem to us as well. Oft times achievements and initiatives that have turned out to be pearls were the result of an adaptive communication process that invited feedback and allowed for contrary opinion. It can be initially frustrating and painful. Perhaps a little gritty.

It’s interesting to note that left alone in nature pearls are usually not symmetrically shaped or rounded. It’s the pearl harvester who nudges the process to produce the more optimum final product. Ironically, these types of pearls are referred to as “cultured pearls”. More focused on making a point than a pun, I can’t help but comment that organizational culture that commits to feedback has a higher likelihood of producing “cultured pearls” than those who leave their people alone, to their natural state without the opportunity to learn from feedback. Feedback requires a partner, another set of eyes and ears to facilitate the learning process that nudges us toward optimum, toward a higher value harvest.

So as we head toward the last quarter of 2013, considering the year behind as well as the new year ahead, would you say you are a “harvester” willing to nudge yourself and others? Optimum results and output are at stake. Is feedback in its many forms a tool you readily use? If you were to audit your team’s opportunities for feedback, how often and what types of feedback are speaking to you and your team?


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