It’s really hypocritical that on one hand we put innovation on a pedestal, but on the other hand, we tend to nix new ideas.
The Atlantic (July/August 2012) has an article called “Let’s Cool It With the Big Ideas.”
The author, P.J. O’Rourke, rails against innovation, saying: “I don’t have a big idea, and I don’t want one. I don’t like big ideas.”
Let’s just say this article by O’Rourke proves his point and not only about big ideas.
Unfortunately, like O’Rourke, many in our society seem to have a love/hate relationship with innovation.
We love new ideas when they work to our benefit–like having a smartphone perhaps–but we fear the worst about failing and people seem to loathe change of any kind until it’s a “proven entity.”
Hence as O’Rourke points out the derogatory feelings and sayings about new, big ideas:
– What is the big idea?
– You and your bright ideas.
– Whose idea was this?
– Me and my big ideas.
– Don’t get smart with me.
The last one is really the clincher with it all–without new ideas and the bravery to explore them, our “smarts” really do go out the window.
This is reminiscent of when the great Library of Alexandria burnt to the ground almost 2,000 years ago, destroying many of the “new ideas” of the philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, poets, and playwrights of the time, leaving us for centuries stuck in the Dark Ages!
Sure, new ideas are threatening to old ways of thinking and doing things, but we are an evolving species–stagnation is death.
According to Harvard Business Review (October 2010) in “How to Save Good Ideas“–a more enlightened article here, explains how to counter fearful and destructive people “who try to kill ideas” using “fear-mongering, delay, confusion, and ridicule.”
Some of the suggestions to counter the naysayers:
– When they attack you for “dictating” a new idea–you can explain that there is a vetting process, but like with a train conductor, we need to provide direction for our people.
– When they say, no one else is doing this–for any new idea, someone has to be the first to try it, and we have the capacity to innovate and succeed.
– When they criticize your timing–acknowledge that you can’t do everything and the poor projects should be weeded out, but promising new ventures should proceed.
From a leadership perspective, we cannot shove new ideas down people’s throats, but rather we need to explore ideas openly and honestly. Leaders should explain the imperative for change, explore organizational and market readiness, look at costs and benefits, mitigate risks, and help people in adopting and adapting to change–and this last one can be the most difficult.
For those that are comfortable with the status quo or afraid of what change may mean to their jobs, status, and security–there are times, when reassuring and working together can move people and the organization forward, but there are also times, when perhaps the person-organizational fit may no longer be right, and it is time to part ways.
The way we do things today–no matter how comfortable–is not the way we will always do them. Times change, challenges build up, opportunities emerge, and as survivors, we either adapt or fade into the annals of history.
“There is more than one way to skin a cat,” but if we are cool to new ideas, the cat will most definitely get away from us–and it may be for good.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ivo Kendra)