What do you say when you hear a fresh idea at work? Let’s suppose it is a suggestion for a new product or service. Here are some things not to say:
1. ‘That sounds interesting but..’ This is the most common way to give the idea a polite denial. What you say before the ‘but’ does not matter because what comes after undermines and criticises the notion. Now for some of the regular comments that come after the but.
2. ‘We tried if before.’ So what lessons did we learn? In any event the market has changed since we tried it and technologies are better and simpler. Don’t dismiss it because it is similar to something that was tried and did not work. Consider it afresh.
3. ‘What is the ROI?’ Focusing on a financial return is the wrong thing to do with a brand new idea. First we have to figure out if it meets a customer need. Don’t try to build a spread sheet to forecast the sales; build a prototype and see how people react. We can do the analysis a little later.
4. ‘It’s not in the budget.’ It is not in the plan but so what? If it is a good idea we should not let the budget we put together 12 months ago stop us from considering it.
5. ‘Department X will never agree to it.’ You could blame Sales, Finance, Technical, Marketing or some other group. It saves you having to think about the idea properly. If it is a radical idea it will run into opposition inside the organization at some stage but that is not a reason to kill it right now.
6. ‘It will undercut sales of Y.’ Y is one of your leading products so its revenues must be protected at all costs. Or maybe not. You should be prepared to cannibalise your products before someone else does.
7. ‘It is too difficult.’ Once again if the there is a clear customer need then difficulties are there to be overcome. Let’s consider different ways of doing it to surmount the obstacles.
8. ‘We don’t have time.’ This is a popular excuse. We are all terribly busy working flat out. But so are our competitors and everyone else. In the words of Peter Drucker, ‘We feed Today and starve the Tomorrow.’ If it is a good idea then we must find time to explore it. We should change priorities to include innovation.
What should you say when you hear a novel suggestion. Ask a question. ‘How would it work?’ ‘Who would need it?’ ‘How could we do it?’ Listen and build on the idea. Maybe it will be rejected but give it a fair hearing first. Explore the possibilities… and don’t kill it immediately with one of the statements above.
What kinds of objections and comments have you heard when new ideas are aired?
Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.