Getting Your Idea Off the Ground

Jane has this fantastic ability to connect ideas from disparate areas into new ideas.  I didn’t know there was a name for this ability until just now when I read BNET‘s posting about Dave Stewart’s new book.  Jane – you are a polymath – meaning that you are knowledgeable about different things, and curious able to see unlikely linkages.  Yep, that’s Jane.

And, it’s Dave Stewart too.  His book “Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide” (there’s a free chapter by the way) advises that those with the idea shouldn’t be expected to implement the idea; their strength is in the idea, and in helping to nurture the idea so that those with the ability to implement can help the idea come to life.  As Stewart says, he’d rather see 10% of an idea become reality than 100% of the idea not realized.

Yet that’s so difficult for so many people.  It is “their” idea, and the ownership of that idea is important for them — rightly so.  Too often the idea-generator isn’t comfortable handing over the fledging idea for refinement and implementation to others; it’s their “baby”  and they want to be a part of its growth and maturing, and they want credit for the idea. How often have we seen those implementing a new concept taking credit for the concept or idea? So why wouldn’t the idea-generator want to continue to lead the implementation? Well……unfortunately, people who are strong idea-generators aren’t always strong implementers.  The result may be that both the implementation and the idea sour.  What’s sad is that people may then think the “idea” was flawed from the get-go when, in fact, the idea had great merit but the implementation was faulty.

With so much pressure these days to be “innovative”, organizations need to make the stages of the innovation process clear, and then acknowledge and reward those involved in each stage.  Those “polymathers” (is that the right word?) — those in your organizations like Jane Dysart or Dave Stewart who can create concepts and innovative ideas must be acknowledged and rewarded for their critical role in that early stage of  innovation process.  They also have to be  supported in turning the ideas over for implementation, and in helping the idea grow in ways they never imagined.

Years ago at Esso I worked with an incredibly creative, selfless guy who said something I’ve never forgotten, “It’s just an idea…’s nothing more than idea until somebody who knows how to make it happen takes over, and that’s not me.  I don’t have time to make it happen – I’m expected to find the next idea.”

Wow….so how does your organization or library handle new ideas? Does the person with the idea have to “prove” that there’s something to it? Or do others help nurture the idea and work together to determine the best way to move it forward?

The other thing I like about Stewart’s book is that he feels brainstorming sessions can be a waste of time. AGREED! Even though organizations sometimes ask me to facilitate these, I always think “I don’t want storms in people’s brains — I want them exploring concepts or unknowns together — -listening to each other, REALLY listening and respecting each other perspectives on a particular problem or issue.”  To explore together people need to respect each other, hear each other and have confidence in themselves and each other. And recognize that if even 10% of their idea takes flight because someone else gives it wings, that’s better than 100% of the idea never getting off the ground.

Hey Jane – what’s your next idea?

3 thoughts on “Getting Your Idea Off the Ground

  1. Wendy Reynolds

    Oh, how I wish this idea would catch on. Execution is a completely different skill set from abstraction. Both are essential in responsive organizations, but they both reside but seldom in one person. Just think how many more creative ideas could be floated if staff weren’t afraid that they would be asked to make their ideas real. Sometimes, what seems at first like a hare-brained scheme needs a new perspective.

  2. Steven Heywood

    I get frustrated with the “it’s your idea, get on with it” approach to management. It too often becomes a mechanism for forcing round pegs into spaure holes. It also, incidentally, devalues the people who aren’t “innovators” but are good at actually getting things done.

    I’m trying to get our organisation to think seriously about the principles of Design Quotient, where teh skills required in each step of the innovation — idea, conceptualisation, evaluation & collaboration — is recognised and valued. This ties in pretty well with your argument here.

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