Idea Generation – It’s Not A Competition

By Tracy MacDonald
Aug 2016

Great ideas. They are the cornerstone of innovation, inspiration and change. They can make our days more productive, our lives easier, and things that were previously thought of as unattainable, possible. While we don’t have control over when a great idea will strike, we do have a responsibility to ourselves and our colleagues to explore them.

For those who are leaders, there’s a decent chance that one of the reasons for being in a leadership position is not just a good idea, but the ability to execute it. Some of the best leaders know how to recognize a good idea, are willing to help execute the idea, and give credit to the person who came up with the idea. In the end, idea generation should be encouraged by all, regardless of where the owner of the idea falls in the corporate hierarchy.

idea generation

Sharing ideas can be intimidating, especially to more junior people or among people in an unfamiliar department or area of specialization. Those ideas though, coming from a different perspective, can often be just the difference needed to spark new and fresh thinking. We believe in encouraging leaders to embrace ideas from all levels and also to include themselves in the practice of idea generation, not just decision making or execution. We also believe in making sure that the idea generation environment is properly set up to be as conducive to success as possible.

One of the best aspects of idea generation is that each person engaged in the process will have a different perspective, a different history, and different experiences from which to draw for their ideas. Those aspects of individuality are to be embraced, celebrated and even challenged. Once one person has a good idea and the rest of the group involved automatically joins in, the groupthink phenomenon takes over and all that individual passion, perspective and creativity is lost. Keep the focus on the benefits and thoughts each individual brings to the group without losing to the group, and the next incredible idea may surface and launch amazing change for the organization.

Ideas are just what the say they are: ideas. They are not immediately solutions, nor are they problems. They are thoughts that are sparked by questions, struggles, challenges, excitement and creativity. As such, there are no bad ideas when you’re starting from scratch. The best leaders will embrace this philosophy and encourage continued open sharing because they already know that an idea evolves into a plan. That plan takes building, and building anything requires multiple parts which can come from multiple resources such as multiple ideas.

The final component to successful idea generation is making sure that all voices are heard. Regardless of where one falls in the hierarchy, it is imperative to share ideas and make sure they are heard. At times, this may take some extra effort, patience or even vocal cords. Ideas can come from anyone and anywhere, and they are only the start. That start can grow and develop and take shape into something completely different and incredibly successful that started from a single idea that someone made sure what heard. We all have voices, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they are heard.

Yes, it’s an amazing feeling to have the next wonderful idea and it’s even better to see that idea grow and develop into success. But it’s not the only idea, nor the only opportunity. Idea generation is a constant, and as such, it’s not a competition. One person doesn’t have to be the one with all the great ideas, and for purposes of diversity, shouldn’t be. Sometimes a great idea can only come after failure. Sometimes it comes in the face of adversity or desperation. Different people will have different ideas, inspired by different experiences, at different times, and all should be considered. Embrace the differences, all of them, and your company’s next amazing idea may come from the most unexpected person.

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