Challenge Negative Mindsets When Pursuing New Ideas
This fun slide show from Information Management magazine encapsulates the kind of resistance leaders confront daily when trying to get support for innovative new ideas created by his or her team.
These slides focus on IT, but with just a bit of editing much of the list applies universally across Corporate America, which is full of risk-averse managers who see the dark side of any issue. Here is my take on how to respond to most of them:
“We tried that. It doesn’t work.”
Really? When did you try it? In what way? Why did it fail? Perhaps circumstances have changed and we need to revisit it.
“Ideas are easy. Execution is hard.”
What is making it hard? Negative mindsets? Onerous documentation and approval processes? Break down walls between the idea and its exploration. How can your organization create a safe environment for the testing of ideas that might upset someone’s part of the corporate apple cart? Can you involve the group that would be impacted in the exploration?
“Corporate won’t like it.”
Of course they won’t. Until you prove your concept with some research and field testing. Great ideas should not have to pass Senior Management Muster before undergoing stress-testing by the idea owners. Leaders know how to find the space and resources to let teams experiment, and when to suspend work on ideas gaining no traction (finding that balance takes experimentation, too!)
“Even Google cancelled its 20% time.”
Google, to its credit, found that the hard-and-fast rule that 20% of an employee’s time could be spent on their own ideas was ripe for abuse, or raised stress among those who couldn’t find that 20% of time in their day. Google did not give up on giving employees free rein to innovate.
“You need experience first.”
Who needs experience? Sometimes the fresh eyes and ears of the new employee spot opportunities that seasoned hands are missing (due to some of the other mindsets on the list.) This should be encouraged constantly as part of your culture’s DNA. Conversely, if the organization is not encouraging its seasoned pros to experiment, it is leaving a lot of brain power, passion and innovation on the table.
“We’re not in that business.”
This could be a valid objection, but must be explored idea-by-idea. Adjacencies are profitable avenues of future growth, even if they threaten a current product or service. Cutting off exploration because the tangent is just a few degrees off from the current path may cut your organization off from profitable new segments. And what happens if the competition finds a way to make the new idea work before you do?
“We’ll put that on the list for next time.”
This is a brush-off. Challenge it. The boss who is saying this is letting distractions and stresses get the better of his or her good judgment. This is the exact moment when a “Stop, Think, Act” mindset may clear the air and allow objective assessment of the idea’s merits.
“Fast follower has proven best.”
This has validity. Groundbreakers often fail. But if your team is not in the habit of considering new ideas and fresh approaches, when a really nice opportunity come along, it isn’t ready to act. You have to build up creative muscles by constantly innovating around your current processes, costs and revenue streams. That way when a great idea pops up at a competitor, you are ready to act and respond productively.
Here’s the last phrase I will leave you with:
“Objections are easy to say, but hard to justify!”
Objections protect the status quo, which is bad. Sticking with all your Stati Quo makes choices easy in the moment, but deadly for any organization that wants to keep itself vital and thriving five to ten years from now.