Have you ever been in a meeting and heard a ridiculously stupid idea? Have you ever worked with a person who never had a good idea? Have you ever put forward an idea, only to feel embarrassed later because of how bad it was? Are you the quite person who never speaks up?
I would be surprised if there was anyone who says no to all of the above questions. I have been in each of those four situations at different times in my life. There were times when I could say yes to all four at the same time.
The problem is that we all feel that a person’s ideas are directly linked to not only their ability and talent (which is true) but also to their value as a person (which is not true). Then we also write the people with bad ideas off as useless (or start thinking of ourselves as useless). When we spend time picking apart, applauding or criticising the ideas of others everyone in the room starts valuing the people who “came up with the idea” more than everyone else in the room.
There is nothing wrong with the process of attacking ideas and working toward the best solution to any problem. It leaves ideas on the cutting floor. Some people’s hard work will just not be good enough. However, the way we think about the process can either kill the process or bring unprecedented innovation.
Right now, the vast majority of us, are killing the process. We see attacks on ideas as attacks on people. This leads to us either shutting ourselves down because we feel bad when others attack our ideas or shutting other people down when they attack ours.
As I said before, the process isn’t the problem, it’s the mindset. We need to think of every idea that is put forward as a way to reach the team goals. We need to allow our pride to take a backseat and realize that when someone else’s idea is chosen it’s not because our idea was stupid, but because the other idea was better for the team.
We cannot allow ourselves to be shut down. Each “bad idea” that is put forward changes perspectives. Each person involved has something to add, even after their “big idea” was shot down. We need to be more sensitive to the value of others when we attack ideas. This week’s idiot may be next week’s genius. We also need to be tougher. Don’t take it personally when someone disagrees with you. It’s not because you are stupid, it’s because they think differently, they have a different perspective.