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Creativity Comments by Winston J. Brill, Ph.D.

07/01 Creativity Comment

Too Many Ideas?

Many managers tell me that their teams have no use for more creativity.  “We’ve already got more ideas than we can handle, the last thing we need around here are new ones,” is the common comment.  Then they say, “It’s the follow-up that is limiting our progress, not finding new ways to do things.”  But, even if all focus is on follow-up, doesn’t that also require new ideas?

It’s easy to appreciate their predicament.  With so many ideas buzzing around, it is certainly very difficult to select the few to pursue.  When all ideas are “average,” it becomes virtually impossible to decide which ones are the best. 

We should always be on the lookout for “great” ideas, the ones that rise to the surface and eventually displace the many “average” ones.  Therefore, increased creativity ought to be a high priority, especially when swamped by an ocean of mediocre ideas. I know of no method (or person) that produces a predominance of “great” ideas.  Those “great” ones always swim in a sea of “not-so-greats.”

Always aim for “great” ideas, even when you are pursuing what seems to be a terrific direction for your project.  There will always be a superior approach; perhaps faster, cheaper, or even a totally new strategy.  If a competitor has the “great” idea for an improved way to do things, it will be your loss.

Set the culture of your group to continually search for “great” ideas.  It won’t take significant time.  It needn’t cost anything.  Your staff won’t complain about your request for more creativity.  In fact, they ought to find it pleasurable.  Just give them an outlet for their ideas, perhaps collecting written ideas, or an opportunity to voice them in the hallway or at meetings.  Then, you have the responsibility to evaluate them and provide rationale for your reject, accept, request-more-information, or put-on-hold, decisions.

In these days of fast-paced competition, “great” ideas will, more than anything else, separate the winners from the losers.  And, remember, in Creativity Comment 04/01, we learned that anyone can come up with a “great” idea at any time.  Therefore, everyone in your group should be strongly encouraged to continually offer their ideas.  Surely, some will be “great.”

©2006 Winston J. Brill & Associates. All rights reserved.