How does your organization manage ideas? The answer, more than any other factor, may contribute to an organization’s long-term viability.
The fates to which ideas most commonly fall victim are probably intimately familiar:
- The truth the idea exposes (e.g. our business model is failing) is too unpalatable to bear. Denial takes hold and the idea is crushed.
- The wrongheaded belief that ideas should only come from the top of the hierarchy blunts the inherent genius of those closest to your customers.
- Your organizational culture prioritizes finding reasons that ideas won’t work over finding ways that they can.
- Old school executives (“we’re supposed to be smarter”) usurp the idea as their own. Nothing is more demoralizing. The originator may withdraw and fail to provide easily overlooked details critical for success.
- Jealousy and envy trump the interests of the organization.
- Vetting ideas through multiple levels of management leads to a predictable result. Only safe ideas, that often have the least impact, reach those who can do something about them.
- The quality with which an idea is articulated has nothing to do with its inherent value. See past poor presentation or risk missing game changing suggestions.
- Many great ideas are carried to manifestation on the backs of persistent individuals, but non-persistent personalities have good ideas too.
- Many people have a natural aversion to change.
For fledging ideas to mature and be properly evaluated (preferably with an inexpensive trial), the care they receive at the moment they’re born is critical. There are dozens of ways to nurture them into a valuable existence. Here are a few actions to start your list of ways to prevent the premature demise of ideas:
- Build a “how can this work?” organizational culture.
- Continually ask for ideas without prematurely judging those you receive. Many of the world's best ideas seemed absurd at first.
- Use internal and external social business tools to encourage communication across boundaries. Many social tools force brevity that helps cut through the clutter that can hide ideas in its shadow.
- Smash communication blockades. Break down departmental siloes. Allow anyone (employees, customers, vendors and others) to communicate with anyone at any time.
- Repeatedly encourage everyone to speak up.
- Ask subordinates to coach and provide feedback to executives. This is one of dozens of methods that help unclog idea-hindering communication flows.
In the spirit of this post, what are your ideas for creating an organization that encourages ideas to flourish?