Monday, March 16, 2009

How To Suggest An Idea

Fire Bucket I often come up with new ideas just out of thin air that I think might work well. At the “light bulb” moment I obviously haven’t put too much thought into it and haven’t critically analysed it. But the idea is kinda like starting a fire. Unfortunately I have worked in a few places where the fire gets a bucket of water thrown on it people who are keen to tell me why it can’t be done and why it won’t work.

A fire needs TLC. It starts out small but you need to blow on it, nurture it and add more fuel (and do it all in the right order) before it can be something useful. If you show someone a fire that is in its infancy, with a very small flame and a few bits of dry grass then they will tell you it is useless. And they would be right because it isn’t big enough to cook on or to keep you warm. However, give it some TLC and it can become a very useful thing indeed.

Granted not all my ideas are top shelf but I think a work environment should encourage people putting their ideas forward and we should all be watchful of staff who have a bright idea and encourage them and work with them to flesh it out. Fleshing it out doesn’t mean we are committing to it … we are just exploring it to see if it has some potential to beegg timer qoutecome something useful.

I use an egg timer to combat the bucket of water throwing co-workers. It is built on a technique that a former boss of mine used to use at our annual Think Tank. Her name is Lou Mayo and she used to be my boss at Australian Business Academy. At our Think Tank we used to have a session where any employee could suggest any idea and the group could only contribute positive things to that idea for the first 5 minutes.

It meant that all ideas had a chance to have some kindling put on them and a nice big blow of air to kick start them. Some ideas caught fire and were implemented. Others needed a serious bucket of water but it meant that we at least explored people’s ideas and gave them a chance to catch on. All in an environment where they felt confident to put their ideas forward because they knew that the buckets of water were not waiting in the wings.

So now I have an egg timer on my desk and whenever I have “a bright idea” that I wish to talk through with someone then I tell them that I am getting the egg timer out and that they can only contribute positive things for the first 5 minutes.

Once the egg timer goes off then it is fair game for a bucket of water. We can take a step back and critically analyse it.


Matt Moore said...

Like it - may steal it!

When I was at IBM, I had a mate in my group who was always supportive. So all my ideas went via him. He was also much better at politics than me - so if the idea had some go, we'd work out to sell it. Finally there was this woman we worked with who was very practical & conservative. We knew if we could sell her on it, we could sell anyone. Her practical comments were also useful.

BTW The title of this post is so 'Basic Instructions' - are you sure you aren't Scott Meyer?

Nathan Bush said...

Great idea mate - I'm going to send it to our creative team as a weapon in their battle versus the suits.

Cybersavvy UK said...

This sounds to me like the eggtimer fits into the 'get it wrong quickly' ethos. Give it everything you can for 5 mins and if it won't fly, move on!

If it's a great idea, it'll come back when the time is right. Nice post, thanks!