Overcoming Idea Breakdown

I love McDonald’s. I know some don’t, but I love it. My favorite sandwich is the Big Mac. The Big Mac, which is one of the most successful fast food sandwiches ever created, was created by a franchisee, not by McDonald’s corporate headquarters. Whether you like Big Macs or you don’t, the point here is that breakthrough ideas often don’t originate from leadership.

Any employee can generate a great idea, the problem is that good ideas aren’t always shared. We all need to innovate, which means we need good ideas. The trouble isn’t a dearth of good ideas, the trouble is in the lack of communication about those ideas. The number one way to motivate people to share ideas is to demonstrate that those ideas will be used. Unfortunately, the number one reason why employees don’t share ideas is because in the past they have had their ideas rejected or—even worse—they have not received any feedback at all about their ideas. The interesting twist to this is that the number one reason that leaders reject ideas is because they report those ideas are half-baked, not well thought out. In other words, the ideas are just too rough to be actionable.

The fix here is simple: If everyone is honest and shares their perspective, we will get more information, more yeses, and more ideas to act on, which will create even more ideas. In this scenario, everyone benefits. If leaders say yes or at least share what is missing from an idea, then employees will know what to do to get their ideas accepted. And if organizations do a better job of sharing how ideas are being used, it will encourage more people to give ideas.

Usually there is a breakdown somewhere in this process. I was brought into a situation where an organization was using ideas but doing a lousy job of sharing how those ideas are being used. So people wrongly concluded that ideas were not being used and therefore stopped giving them. Once we worked with the organization to broadcast how ideas were being used, the floodgates opened with fresh innovative ideas.

If an idea of yours is rejected, don’t despair. Instead ask for feedback. You can even ask, what would it take for you to agree to my idea? You may find out you are closer to getting a yes than you realized. Ideas are not usually the problem. The ideas may be half-baked, they may need work, but that is not the problem. That is normal. What is needed is feedback, explanation, guidance, and the broadcasting of success. With that we can get more yeses and therefore more successes.

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