Creative ideas are everywhere. Our organizations are full of them. But readers of this blog know that all of us - yes, all of us - have an unconscious bias against creativity that prevents us from recognizing the creative ideas already within our organizations. (If you missed my most recent blog on the subject, Creativity Isn't What You Need, you can read it here.)
Once we know about our bias, then we can avoid it and the creative ideas should start flowing, right? If only it were that simple! Many organizations have unknowingly established processes, structures and incentives that further discourage us from recognizing and selecting innovative ideas.
The Looming To-Do List
Most leaders spend their days in a nonstop marathon of decision-making from repetitive and mundane choices to resolving urgent fire drills. So, imagine, in the middle of this non-stop decision making, someone comes in to pitch their new idea. The leader’s thoughts will unconsciously turn to the countless decisions that will be needed if the idea moves forward. And what if it gets implemented?
The long-running to-do list that just unfurled next to their existing long-running to-do list has significantly dampened their enthusiasm for the idea. And they don't even know it.
The Trouble with Champions
This situation is often exacerbated by how organizations implement new ideas. Most often, the leader who brings the idea forward is given responsibility to oversee its implementation. It would be unfair and unethical to cut out the person who championed the idea, right?
But this approach also brings with it unintended consequences. Leaders, stretched thin and knowing that championing an idea is the same as signing-on for implementation, unconsciously focus on the problems with the idea rather than its potential. They come up with sensible, rational grounds to explain why the idea isn’t ready to move forward just yet. They haven't squashed the idea. It just needs to be fleshed out before moving forward.
And, just like that, another creative idea is lost to “someday.”
Creative ideas are just that…ideas. They need the right mix of skills, processes and culture surrounding them to transform into innovation.