Friday, March 27, 2009

Don't ask for ideas, ever

Have you ever been to those meetings where the future of something important for your organization is discussed and everybody should propose their ideas regarding it. Maybe the goals is new product, or improvement of existing line, or new ways to cut costs or whatever. So you end up in a meeting with some of your peers, your boss, your boss's boss,and some heavy weights like chairman, important client and the No3 expert in some area in the world, with No1 consulting Cisco exclusively and No2 being semi retired in Bermuda, no phone calls send him the private jet if you want to meet him. So you're there to discuss ideas that all those brave souls submitted, right ? Wrong, its just a waste of time.
In all the formal organizations I've attended to, both commercial and non-profit there are only one ideas who will be accepted. Those who were accepted before the meeting started. That's it. If whoever submits the idea couldn't get it implemented via regular channels the most he could accomplish in such meeting is "I like your idea" and some tapping on the back.
Why is that happening? Because formal organization have hierarchies. By some footsoldiers or corporals submitting their ideas directly to the generals or secretary of defense that hierarchy is broken. And that's not going to happen in normal circumstances. The only exception is where organization is in pain fighting for survival. When everybody knows that hurricane is going to blow us so we better do something or will end up gone with the wind, then hierarchy melts and everybody looks for saviour . The first company I worked for as a transport coordinator didn't implemented any of my ideas for costs savings while business was going well with millions flowing in. But when China entered the WTO and the business was frightened they looked for every solution to stay competitive and implemented everything that could help, pronto.
So if you want new ideas don't bother asking for them, especially not your subordinates? If what you want is cheap and low risk give them the authority to do it themselves, then judge by the results. Something like all those who have ideas for improvements have $1000 budget or week of company time to work on it. For the rest, the expensive ideas or those who pose an alleviated risk its best to let them flow through the regular channels. Whatever they are. They might be bad ideas or bad ideas for your organization. As we all know ideas are worthless, its the execution that makes them matter.

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