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

09/03 Creativity Comment

Got to Act, Got to Fight!

Wouldn’t it be nice if every new idea in your company were seriously considered and that people whose ideas are not pursued are politely provided reasons for rejection?  But in many companies I hear complaints the equivalent of, “If you want to pursue a new idea around here, expect to be beaten up.  It’s not worth it.”  Which type of organization do you think will be most innovative?

Just think what the environment would be like if everyone’s new ideas were followed up.  It would generate chaos—even if a tenth of those ideas underwent study and written or oral reporting.  Since it is only a rare new idea that ends up generating something useful to the organization, imagine the time and energy wasted.

Who should decide whether an idea ought to be pursued?  It’s not practical for a committee or a supervisor to do a “study” on every new idea.  There’s no way to examine ideas to pick out only those that will be valuable.  You are likely familiar with stories about some of your company’s most important advances.  How many of them would have initially been rejected by a committee or a boss?  How did those great ideas get to see the light of day?  Because someone fought for the idea.  That person had to overcome resistance from a supervisor, colleagues, a committee or some regulation written “in stone.”  The successful idea was led by someone who was likely afraid to enter the battle, but felt the idea was so important that the scars might (can’t say “will” here since the importance can only be proven at a later date) be worth the satisfaction of making a valuable contribution.

So, push for your ideas.  Expect to be beaten up.  Use the battle to make yourself more creative.  Figure out how to lessen your bruises while advancing an idea.  By entering the fray, you are overcoming an efficient barrier preventing most ideas from serious consideration by the company.  Ideas not sufficiently thought through are left behind, not wasting anyone’s time and effort.  But when you feel your idea is so important, and you’re losing sleep over it as you continue to think of the idea’s validity and potential, then it is time to act.  Perhaps the first action will be arguing—ideally, with the help of others—why your idea ought to be pursued.

A warning:  at some point you may realize that your idea really isn’t as good as you initially thought.  Don’t continue to fight for an idea just because you are concerned about losing face.  During the battle, even a losing battle, you will be learning about yourself, about your organization and about your business.  Use that learning to pursue future ideas.  If you are afraid to fight for ideas you think are important, you just won’t be creative or innovative.      

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