In the world of innovation we so often talk about "ideas.” We try to have as many of them in the front end of the funnel as we can. We encourage people to give them. We hold brain-dumping… sorry, brainstorming sessions to break records on how quickly we can get them.
We give them all the attention… all the hype… all the spotlight…
And then we kill them.
It just doesn’t seem right.
People have vested interests in their ideas. They can be, literally, little "brain children.”
And when they finally get up the courage to share them it is like saying, "I’ll just put this little baby here in the bathwater…”
And so they hear us loud and clear, "Thank you… but we don’t think you’re really all that smart.”
Sure, we don’t say that… but it is what they hear.
We tell them though, "Keep bringing us ideas! We love them!”
Love to kill them, that is.
But it doesn’t have to be. They can live on. Indeed, we really can’t kill them. Why?
Because an idea is "a formulated thought or opinion.”
Can I take someone else’s thought or opinion from them and kill it?
I can only reject it. And that is why people feel rejected when we "kill” their ideas.
In corporations we want to know we are powerful, we want to be able to say, "Yes! I killed it! It is dead! I am the winner!” (OK, maybe not that cynical)
But no one really wins in these scenarios.
What we can reject, without rejection someone’s idea (or them) is a concept.
A concept is an idea placed into a given context to achieve a desired outcome or outcomes.
Context is the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.
We don’t really want to have to go through 1,000 ideas. We would rather go through 100 concepts.
Consider how things would change if you said to your employees, "Bring us your concepts!” instead of "Bring us your ideas.”
Things might just move faster.
And the traditional "ideation” activities could be a lot faster and a lot more focused if the responsibility of the one asking for input had to first give people the context into which they would be applied.
How often have we heard people say, "I gave them that idea ten years ago and they did nothing with it!”
They feel like their idea was killed… but they still hold the formulate thought or opinion, so it really never did die. If they understood that the interrelated conditions had changed, making their idea more viable in the new context… they might get a little motivated.
And if they are so sure that their idea is a good one… they will seek to understand the context that they are in… or… maybe even seek to describe the ideal context for their concept to work in, and drive the company in a new direction.
So here is my challenge… stop asking for ideas. Ask for concepts.