Raw ideas have little value unto themselves. They need to be expanded, tweaked, massaged, and refined. Painters and sculptors often display a collection or series of pieces that are variations of a single theme or idea. Over a period of time, their art evolves and we can enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Authors and songwriters are often invited to a variety of workshops where they share, showcase, and openly collaborate on ideas that have caught their imagination. These constructive sessions help bring different experiences, perspectives, and advice to help ideas become something that connects with others. As artists, we are more comfortable with the notion that ideas merely pass through us rather than belonging to anyone, and that everyone benefits from openly sharing ideas.
When it comes to ideas in the business world however; we seem to get it wrong – quite often. I think it is because we make two critical errors.
1) We extend a law of money over to ideas.
If you and I were to share a sum of money, we could each expect half. This is expressed in a simple math equation of 1 / 2 = 0.5. But when an idea is shared, we both get a full idea. The equation changes from one of division to one of multiplication, such as 1 x 2 = 2. On top of that; each idea can be independently adapted or can inspire a variety of new ideas. This doesn’t happen with money.
2) We consider the source of ideas.
Due to the hierarchy and responsibilities within a business, we rarely challenge ideas from those above us and hardly consider ideas from those below us. Would you risk your job to be the one to tell the CEO you think her idea won’t work? All too often managers’ egos prevent good ideas from building momentum simply because they came from someone else.
This is not a new challenge. Charles Edward Montague (English journalist, essayist, and novelist 1867-1928) understood this phenomenon when he famously wrote;
“There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit.”
Businesses today need to adopt more idea workshops where such barriers are removed and everyone can openly collaborate to help bring raw ideas to maturity; regardless of the source. Such collaborations should include representation from every department. This not only helps generate ideas that actually work for every department, but also helps with the all-important ‘buy-in’ of ideas that are implemented.
A few final notes about ideas:
1) Ideas are never perfect in their raw form. In fact, they are often quite fragile. They require a delicate touch in regards to the input and experiences of a diverse group or personalities.
2) Ideas don’t do anybody much good just bouncing around in our brains. Besides opportunities for improvement; sharing helps make ‘room’ for more ideas to come.
3) Each of us have unlimited potential for creating ideas. It is one of the gifts of being a human; yet this skill needs to be developed and supported throughout our lives or else it will wither away.
4) None of us has exclusive rights – or even a higher percentage – of good, bad, large, or small, etc. ideas. The only way to have more ‘good’ ideas is to simply have LOTS of ideas; and to share them with other people. You never know when a ‘silly’ idea like an automobile made from an assembly line, or an electric incandescent light bulb, or a personal computer can come along and change the world.
When you build better mechanisms for handling ideas; you will get better ideas!
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