Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ReTHINK : Ideas are never weird, just different.

Ideas are never weird, just different. You will share the same notion with me that you had heard so many typical phrasesin committee, discussion and other supposed “brainstorming” sessions that end up going awry. They eventually stifle any creative thinking effort in a group, because they destroy the part of brainstorming that allows good ideas to sprout from the offbeat or “bad” idea. Ideas was labelled as weird and gunned down.

Eventually people end up thinking alike,and usually stop contributing to the group because they can’t be free to come up with ideas that don’t get shot down. I read once that if all of us are thinking alike then no one is thinking. In the effort to please the management or senior staff, many of us choose to reserve the "weird idea" which is just a different idea and surrender to the similarity of the group.

As tribes always says why fit in when you can stand out.  As time goes i realised the bitter truth.

One of the foundational principles in organizations is the notion of the hierarchy. You can run away from it as it was there since centuries ago.An Efficient organizations need an efficient chain of command. Well-managed organizations require the supervision of trained managers running their departments and reporting upward to more senior decision makers. An it had always been the case.

The problem is that the chain of command works well for issuing orders and making decisions. It works so well that creative ideas stand little chance of being utilized unless they’re being shared from the top downward. Creative ideas that come from the middle or lower levels of a hierarchy have to work their way up through a series of managers, each with the power to veto but each lacking the power to implement. Managers often reject innovative ideas because the individuals who developed theses ideas understand the novelty and applicability of them better than their managers.

As an idea moves through the different levels, the likelihood of rejection increases, since those managers are further from the domain the idea applies to and less likely to understand its true value in that domain. This turns a chain of command into what Vanderbilt professor Dave Owens wrote as a “hierarchy of no.” Owens, who worked as a designer for IDEO before joining the academy, asserts that the standard organizational structure contains natural constraints that kill innovative ideas.While the tendency for hierarchies to kill creativity is serious, it’s impossible  to make a case for abandoning a chain of command entirely.

Despite the impossible one company has developed a system to leave the traditional chain of command in place, while still building a culture where creative ideas are given room to grow and i read this somewhere before.The company, Rite-Solutions, did it by giving everyone in the organization $10,000. The money isn’t for spending; it’s not even real. The money is for investing on the company’s internal idea stock market. Rite-Solutions developed a system where anyone in the company can propose their idea by listing it as a stock and soliciting investment. No one needs to get approval from management before listing an idea. For every idea listed, the idea’s champion creates an “ExpectUs” (a pun on “prospectus”) which describes the idea and its potential. Each stock also has a “Budge-It” (a more obvious pun) which outlines the steps the ideas champion believes must be taken to move (or budge) forward. The new stock is given a starting price of $10 and even assigned a ticker symbol. As mentioned, each employee is also given $10,000 in virtual currency to invest in whatever ideas intrigue them. In addition to receiving investment money, each stock listing also has a comments thread for discussion on the merits of the idea and any next steps that need to be considered.

Just like in a real market, investment money flows unevenly to the ideas that investors favor and feel has the best chance of becoming a viable project. But employees don’t just invest money, they also volunteer their time and expertise to help the potential project. Once a week, a “market maker” logs into the system and revalues each stock based on the money invested and the time committed. Ideas that fail to attract enough interest are eventually removed. Ideas that gain momentum are given actual funding to help develop them into real projects. When a stock moves from an idea to a money making project, those who have invested their time get to share in the proceeds through bonuses or actual stock options. Anyone who lists an idea, even if it generates no investment, is given credit for doing so on their annual performance evaluation. In its relatively short lifespan, the system has already been a huge success. In its first year alone, the idea stock market accounted for 50 percent of the company’s new business growth.

What Rite-Solutions has created is a system for managing the flow of creative ideas without needing those ideas to make a death march through the hierarchy of no. The decision to green light a project doesn’t rest on any one manager or senior leader. Instead that power is distributed throughout the organization to people who are more likely to understand the ideas utility in its domain. If enough people, regardless of their level in the hierarchy, feel the idea has merit, than it is acted upon. This keeps the hierarchy in place, but democratizes the process of innovation. While the chain of command stays efficient, the creative process becomes efficient too.

On that note i would like to share with you from a newspaper article on TED. 

Try carrying this list into your next staff meeting or brainstorming session so you can put an end to the creativity killing.

Our place is different
  1. We tried that before.
  2. It costs too much.
  3. That’s not my job.
  4. They’re too busy to do that.
  5. We don’t have the time.
  6. Not enough help.
  7. It’s too radical a change.
  8. The staff will never buy it.
  9. It’s against company policy.
  10. The union will scream.
  11. That will run up our overhead.
  12. We don’t have the authority.
  13. Let’s get back to reality
  14. That’s not our problem.
  15. I don’t like the idea.
  16. I’m not saying you’re wrong but…
  17. You’re two years ahead of your time.
  18. Now’s not the right time.
  19. It isn’t in the budget.
  20. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
  21. Good thought, but impractical.
  22. Let’s give it more thought.
  23. We’ll be the laughingstock of the industry.
  24. Not that again.
  25. Where’d you dig that one up?
  26. We did alright without it before.
  27. It’s never been tried.
  28. Let’s put that one on the back burner for now.
  29. Let’s form a committee.
  30. It won’t work in our place.
  31. The executive committee will never go for it.
  32. I don’t see the connection.
  33. Let’s all sleep on it.
  34. It can’t be done.
  35. It’s too much trouble to change.
  36. It won’t pay for itself.
  37. It’s impossible.
  38. I know a person who tried it and got fired.
  39. We’ve always done it this way.
  40. We’d lose money in the long run.
  41. Don’t rock the boat.
  42. That’s what we can expect from the staff.
  43. Has anyone else ever tried it?
  44. Let’s look into it further.
  45. We’ll have to answer to the stockholders.
  46. Quit dreaming.
  47. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  48. That’s too much ivory tower.
  49. It’s too much work.