Although most of my jobs have been in consulting firms, I did work for about four years for one of my old clients and had a tremendous experience. Yet, as this company had a more traditional pyramid structure, with a CEO, executives, managers, line managers and staff with more of each as you descended in the ranks, I observed unhealthy behavior that was caused by a self-preservation mentality. Many people had good ideas, but very few people who would get up out of their chair and go do them? Why? It is primarily due to the fear of failure or being ridiculed for the idea.
This business example is metaphor for life. I write this today after my post a few days ago called “Teach your Children – a Tribute to CSNY” which can be read if you scroll down to the following post. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had several songs about following your dreams. They emphasized setting sail to chase them and not be like others standing on the shore lamenting past decisions not to do so. Dreams and good ideas should be nurtured more and explored. I often quote Dr. Phil who says “the only difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline.”
In the business book “Built to Last” which I referenced in a comment on Grow Up Proper’s post this morning at, http://growupproper.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/how-big-are-your-goals/, the concept of setting BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) is an attribute of the most successful companies. They had big ideas and big goals and set their sights to achieve them. In this book the author talks about the demise of Texas Instruments, who was a darling of Wall Street at the beginning of the 1970s. A new leadership group came on board and actually scoffed at people in public forum when dumb ideas were presented. So, guess what happened? People stop sharing ideas and the bloom came off the company rose.
Getting back to my earlier example about the pyramid company, this was a very conservative, steady-as-she-goes company. People were scared to be daring. Daring to this company was wearing a blue shirt with a tie. So, people with good ideas did not share them very much. The ideas were not nurtured. The ideas were not brainstormed. So, this company never led the pack. They were big on operational excellence, but were not known for being out in front, with a few exceptions. The exceptions tended to be in smaller business units which did not get the same level of scrutiny at the corporate level. In the more visible business units, people tended to protect their turf and not dare to share. They would not get up out of their chair and go do something about good ideas.
In another more global company I worked with, some of the better ideas were created in Australia, the UK or in one of the local US offices, as they were more removed from the headquarter city. These more remote locations felt they had license to try more entrepreneurial ideas. When they were successful and had numbers to show it, they would share the concepts for others to use. There is an old business line to just do it and apologize later.
Before he died, Steve Jobs designed the new Apple headquarters. He designed it in a way so that there would be more chance encounters with others. Each hall had accessible meeting rooms with white boards, etc. where people who bumped into each other going to get a cup of coffee or taking a rest break, could pop into a room and brainstorm on ideas each other had. Jobs, as difficult a person as he was, knew the value of idea sharing. I read somewhere in a magazine about improving higher education that innovative ideas occur at the fringes of disciplines. So, if you enable the fringe settings to occur, the innovation will be nurtured.
In California, there is a company that consults with people like Apple and others around innovation. They are thrown a problem and put teams together of people with different disciplines and backgrounds. As a result, this diversity of thought and perspective literally bubbles over with innovation. They not only do something about their ideas, they make them better through multiple brainstorming sessions that lead to a more elegant idea that is executable and sustainable. They get up out of their chair and go do something about it.
The future will change rapidly in terms of innovation. Computer power is doubling every 18 months or so. Your hand-held device has more power than most older PCs and some minicomputers (yes that is a term). The innovators have to perpetuate new ideas or could go out of business. Think of Blockbuster or Palm Pilot, e.g. And, the pyramid company I mentioned above no longer exists. They were bought as they did not grow fast enough in an industry where greater size meant more efficiency. Ironically, the company that bought them has since been bought as well. I am not saying”innovate or die,” but if you are not mindful of where your industry is headed, you will not have the necessary amount of innovation to stay up to date.
So, do not be afraid to share your ideas and go do something about them. Don’t be afraid to chart a course for your dreams and set sail. Words are easy, so get up out of your chair and go do something about it.