In your company, do good ideas tend to get trampled on before they are even born?  If so, this week, I might have just the trick to help you. 

I have been saying it for years now that the secret to a successful business is asking the right questions; questions that get to the heart of a problem by separating the symptoms from their root causes.  But recently I have been reflecting upon the concept that not everything in life is about problems – what about opportunities? How can we raise our new ideas without the usual negativity?

Peter M. Senge, the change management guru in his book ‘Presence’ suggests that before talking about a new idea, talk about a common purpose or objective instead.  Let me explain. 

Imagine your company manufactures products that are very seasonal, like garden furniture for example.  Your new idea might be to distribute a completely new range of products that would be popular only in the winter when your garden furniture sales are low, thereby smoothing out a troublesome cash-flow.  

This is how it would work. Instead of suggesting your new idea straight out, you would first set up the right environment (right time, right place, right people) to discuss the purpose: 

“I have been thinking that we should explore new ways of making additional revenue, revenue with little risk that would be generated over the winter period, without disrupting our busy production schedules?” 

Your goal would be to open the topic of ‘new seasonal revenue’ as the main discussion point. Only once you have established a common understanding of purpose (filling cyclical cash flow dips) should you raise your new idea as one of a range of possible options, if it has not already been suggested by someone else!  In this way you will quickly find yourself in a much more constructive discussion, where only the choice of suitable products are debated rather than the fundamental drivers of the good idea itself.  

I have used this technique often and it can be very effective.  The results can be very uplifting, even fun because it opens up a completely new style of debate where all parties can quickly agree on a purpose and then brainstorm the strategy to achieving it.  In this process, no one’s pride gets hurt and the team learns a new, more positive way of being creative.

Just an idea… thanks Peter!

Have a good week,