Ideas and a Greater Good

At the onset of any given January we are excited about whichever new things the upcoming year has in store for us, as we generate all kinds of New Year ideas, resolutions, and wishes. The clean slate of 2019 seems to invite us to start fresh, and — naturally — we want to arrive to 2020 and look back with the sense of fulfillment which comes from having our ideas implemented, complimented, and serving a greater good.

What will this pristine whiteness look like in a year’s time?

It’s never been easier to come up with ideas for anything than it is in the times that we live in now. The input that we receive from all kinds of the informational environment provides us with the fertile ground for picking, tweaking, and on-boarding ideas. And, we often identify ourselves and our personal self-worth with the ideas that we champion. Someone advocates an idea of implementing a software architecture in a certain way. Someone is excited about a certain marketing strategy. Someone senses an organizational flaw at their team/company and has an idea for an improvement. In a culture that encourages creativity it’s only natural that team mates keep bringing new and new ideas to the table. The truth is, not all of those ideas are destined to come to fruition, for various reasons. There may come a time when too many ideas have been put forth, but haven’t been acted upon. Volumes have been written on how to prioritize ideas, and if you happen to be the one in charge of giving a “go” or a “no go” to a certain idea that came from your team, you know what I mean. In fact, less personal ways of sealing a fate of an idea have been invented, and those safer ways generally rely on group decisions, or decision-making numeric models, or both. When I say “less personal” and “safer” I mean this: it might be uncomfortable for a stakeholder, or a group of stakeholders to discard the ideas to which their folks have invested so much energy and enthusiasm. What if by discarding those grass-roots ideas some unseen limits and hurdles for a team’s creativity are being set? On one hand, the stakeholders might be genuinely willing to acknowledge the creative input from the team, and nursing a backlog might be a response to their personal need to give credit to the idea initiators. The question is: how does it feel if it’s your idea that gets buried in the backlog? And, what if the idea’s priority — defined by a numeric model or by a decision of a stakeholder/-s — sets it further and further from being implemented? Sure enough, in the stakeholders’ eyes, they do listen and pay attention by devoting a share of their time to grooming the ideas backlog (or to picking a whichever decision-making model to do the same). But… what if this action does not clearly communicate the message that the higher-ups do appreciate any and all creative input from all of the team mates?

I would suggest some strategies for both the sides. If you are someone who is brimming with ideas, and if you are not getting a green light on them, or if you feel that you’re ignored, think of those ideas as of your personal creative gym. Re-frame your mind and say to yourself: “All right, even if I’m not being heard, and even if my ideas do not get credit so far, I know for sure that what I’m saying makes sense, and I’m sticking with my guns”. And, if you are a stakeholder/leader/manager or someone whose responsibilities involve attending to the ideas of other people, make sure that your expression of care and respect to their input is perceived just as such. Dedicate some of your time to sharing a wider perspective of the company’s goals with the team. Or, integrate some mentoring/learning/knowledge sharing techniques that would help the others in your organization understand the intrinsic reasons for acting or not acting upon a certain idea. Look at this strategy not only as solely a way of explaining yourself and your decisions, but as a way of educating and nurturing broad thinkers/leaders/managers both for the good of your organization… and for a greater good :)