the right pathI loved reading about the adventures of Christopher Robin and his childhood friends in Hundred Acre Wood. It was only recently I realized that the author of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne, gave these childhood characters a range of mental illnesses.

Think about it. Pooh Bear has ADHD, Tigger has hyperactivity-impulsivity disorder, Piglet has anxiety disorder, Christopher Robin has schizophrenia and Eeyore is clearly depressed!

It’s Eeyore we need the most

Eeyore the Donkey characterizes exactly the kind of depressive and moody individual who can be very useful to us in business.

We need him – but do you know why? Because we very rarely test our ideas against external reality.

We tend to live in our own little world, and the feedback loops we create are almost always positive, telling us things are going to work. I have started five businesses, and not one of them grew the way I wanted or believed. I have become an expert at setting (and failing) to attain unrealistic goals.

OK, I am an eternal optimist, but even when faced with last year’s numbers, I prognosticate poorly. In spite of my very best efforts to create “best, believable and worst” case scenarios, they are, in truth, “very best, best and optimistic” case scenarios!

Bring your Eeyore in

Oh, how he or she can help us! Imagine someone who’s weather forecast is “Nice day for an earthquake.” Or who, when greeted with “Good morning!” replies, “We can’t all have a good morning. Not me anyway.” Now there’s a person for the task!

Businesses desperately need someone who has a dissenting voice to speak to them. Someone should be allowed to point out when there is an elephant in the room – especially one of our own making.

Big businesses make sure their governance boards are well balanced and invite debate. Why shouldn’t small- or medium-sized businesses?

I am often called upon to be an independent board advisor for just this reason. I have no vested interest in the decision, but I will tell the truth. That truth is often unpopular. Maybe your accounts clerk or your accountant is that person who is able to bring a hard edge of reality to your budget?

The issue is allowing them to have a voice and encouraging them to speak freely without aggravated and defensive feedback.

That doesn’t mean we have to do everything they say, but their view will help temper our own.

Manage your Eeyore

Allowing such a person in your world must be carefully managed. It is too easy for them to become a killjoy. You can’t let them criticize the earliest vestiges of a good idea.

Yes, I know when you are just about ready to bring your fragile, beautiful, nurtured, artistic idea into the world like a pink-skinned, newborn babe they stand by with the statistics of infant mortality and crib death. But you need them, you really do.

So, I challenge you, right now, get your contacts book out, go to your Facebook friends list, check out your LinkedIn connection network and find someone who can be an Eeyore for you. You’ll never regret it.