6 Ideas About Creating Organizations That Value Ideas

John Cage once said, “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.  I’m frightened of the old ones”

This notion kind of struck me while I was watching a movie about Charles Darwin who had, and developed, one of the world’s biggest ideas, one that, even now, creates much spirited conversation.  I suppose in that context (and in those times) there may have been much to fear.  After all, Darwin’s big idea was one that challenged people to rethink their whole existence.  Nonetheless, it was important to human growth and understanding to entertain it because without the exploration that comes from new ideas, I suspect we would simply all fade to black eventually… or die of boredom.

I think this is also true of business organizations.  Now, more than ever, businesses are having to rethink their product and how they deliver to market.  A number of longstanding companies who failed to do that are now either out of business or in some serious bother because, either in whole or in part, they have found themselves being outpaced by technology and consumer demand for ever evolving applications.

So, the question, (or at least one of them) is, how do we build organizations that actively value idea creation and development?

Some companies will say they have processes in place that encourage people to offer their ideas.  I would argue that creating mechanisms through which to feed ideas is not enough, no matter how sophisticated the process.

To really engage people in sharing and developing new ideas, I rather think we have to create cultures that will support it.  That’s a bit trickier.

So how might this be accomplished?  Well, I’m sure you have some thoughts about that.  Just to be going on with though, here are some of mine:

Give people the opportunity to deeply understand the purpose and vision of your organization.  ~ People who have a clear grasp of why their organizations are in business and what they hope to achieve in the future will tend to set their brains in that direction when searching for solutions to existing problems or anticipating future ones.  Perhaps too, they will be more likely to use their creative juices to pre-empt organizational issues before they arise.

Build a Safe Environment for Idea sharing ~ putting forth a new, possibly even bizarre idea takes a lot of courage.  People have to see the risk as one worth taking and operate in the knowledge that they will not be judged, derided or punished in any way for sharing their ideas.  Not all ideas are going to be good  but among them, there are bound to be some great ones that might not have surfaced if the working environment is such that it values censorship over creativity.

Learn to encourage and value diverse opinion ~ People look at things based on their own experiences and biases.   If we all thought alike or hired only people who thought like us, we would no doubt miss a great deal.  To generate ideas that are future oriented we must invite diversity into our conversations.  That means letting go of the reins of our own strongly held opinions long enough to listen to the possibility that there might be a better way.

Challenge ideas not people ~ While this is part of building a safe environment for ideas to be shared, in the heat of a moment, it is easy to slide criticism away from the idea and onto the one who brought it up so I think it bears repeating.

Acknowledge, Acknowledge and Acknowledge some more ~ Acknowledgement is integral to building an organization that values idea generation and development.  I think we all know that.  I’m just not sure how many of us provide it. It really doesn’t have to come in the form of fancy recognition programs.  It just has to be sincere and timely in its delivery.

Shift the perspective of knowledge as power~   We have become used to the notion that  knowledge is power so we’d better hang onto it.  So many of us are reluctant to share what we know because we fear loss of leverage of some kind.  In this new century though, the power comes from the collective.  Business success lies in our ability to collaborate, not hoard.   That means building organizations flexible enough, daring enough, strong enough and, perhaps even Darwinian enough to invite people to rethink their whole corporate existence and use the ideas that come from it to move them confidently into the future.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?




Filed under communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, motivating & Inspiring, NOWLeadership, Organizational Effectiveness

15 responses to “6 Ideas About Creating Organizations That Value Ideas

  1. I think:

    Nearly everything you’ve written makes a lot of sense to me.

    Not everything.

    But then, what does my opinion matter? No-one will employ me because I’m not only smarter than Charles Darwin, I’m almost as smart as God Almighty Himself, and this threatens business people.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      David ~ I’m sorry about your employment situation. That’s never any fun. I suspect though that because you are smart, you will find a way to make things work for you. I hope so anyway. Best wishes for the future and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts here.

  2. olayide

    Hi just stumbled here this morning I found this very helpful am presently working as a sales executive with this Information and many more from you I will start a change. Thanks so much.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Olayide ~ If you found this post helpful to you, then it has served its purpose. Thank you for taking the time to tell me 🙂

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  6. Gwyn – excellent insights as usual. Love the notion of a corporate re-think!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Dorothy ~ Yes, the notion is intriguing isn’t it? Although, as so many people have pointed out, putting ideas into action is ultimately what counts. Forming a new company with new ideas is possibly easier, culture-wise, than re-purposing an old and established company but both require the kind of intestinal fortitude we don’t know we have until we’re tested…not for the faint of heart, I fear. 🙂

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  11. Terry Thomas

    HI Gwyn
    Since you enjoyed the Darwin movie about ideas, I thought you might enjoy this 45 minute video about advances (ideas) in medicine over the past 200 years. This video and timeline are sponsored by the New England Journal of Medicine. I agree with your ideas! However, when watching the video, I realize that many innovations were developed in challenging times and many of the new ideas were initially criticized and ridiculed. I wish most of the environments were as supportive as you suggest; but, then why would we feel the need to change or to improve? That’s my noble response.
    Now, the reality of the situation is that I’ve had an idea for work for several years and can’t bring the idea to fruition. After watching the video and reading your post, I’m inspired to try again! I’ll look forward to your words of wisdom for a fresh start in the New Year! Happy Holidays! Terry


    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Terry ~ I look forward to viewing the video! Thank you for attaching it. As for your idea, sometimes it takes more than one attempt to persuade people that an idea merits entertaining. I applaud you for your decision to have another go at presenting it. Victor Hugo once said, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” It’s always possible that this is the time for your idea to see the light of day. I hope so anyway.
      Happy Holidays to you too 🙂

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