Creative Ideas : What's the Problem?

Two business women. One is sharing her idea enthusiastically, the other one is a little skeptical.

We need more creative ideas! Yes that sometimes how it seems. New ideas for new products or process improvements or cost savings.

Think again. Do you need more creative ideas or do you need to hear the ones you’re given?

Giving team members the tools and techniques to generate creative ideas is a sensible step if you want to have more new ideas in the organisation. Just as important is for team members to hear the ideas that colleagues come up with. And hearing the idea means giving it a bit of space to exist before evaluating it.

The Reasons We Don't Hear Ideas.

We don’t always hear ideas for many reasons. These might include :-

  • Ideas in their initial stages can sound insignificant and irrelevant. The idea needs to be developed so that its full potential becomes apparent. If it’s dismissed at an early stage, then the idea will never be developed.
  • The idea sounds like it might threaten the status quo. It might disrupt someone’s role, someone’s powerbase. It might be dismissed quickly.
  • It sounds ridiculous. The new idea may contradict everything the organization values or its principles. It may contradict what customers say they want.

In order to hear ideas, we need to become change agents. This means being open minded to ideas, and accepting that ideas have the potential to change the organisation.

The Importance of the Present Moment.

A change agent is able to be in the present. That is the moment when change can occur. If we’re ‘stuck in the past’ we may say things like: ‘ We tried something like that once before and it didn’t work.’ If we jump right into the future we may anticipate failure and say “ There’s no market for that or I can’t see that going anywhere.”.

Being in the present fully, is a state that change agents need to be able to access. This is where they can listen to a new idea, perhaps paraphrasing it to check their understanding. Then they can evaluate its potential open mindedly. Change agents need to feel comfortable with the uncertainty that a creative idea presents. Even as they recognise that an idea could change the organisation both in ways they can anticipate and also in ways they cannot yet anticipate.

So, what’s more important suggesting ideas or hearing ideas? Both of course, there’s no point in having one without the other.

You can train people in the tools and techniques to generate ideas. But how often do people get trained in really hearing ideas? And it’s a process that’s harder than we sometimes realize. Listening to the idea in full and not dismissing it on the basis of past experience. Not generalizing or distorting it into something similar that we’re not keen on. Not deleting bits of the idea that we don’t like.

If you train up your hearing skills and keep them fit through regular practice, you may be surprised how many good ideas reach you.

©AnatellÔ Ltd 2012. All rights reserved.


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