“THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!” It is a phrase we hear over and over again. The point is to come up with different ideas and new concepts, which are fantastic but I see two things usually occur: 1. new ideas are not accepted or 2. new ideas are not implemented correctly and fail. The problem, I believe, is as new ideas or new process changes are discovered the first thing upper management does is question – How much will it cost? What is the impact? Yet the designer of the fresh concept probably does not have the answers right away. Upper management has legitimate questions and concerns; that is why businesses stay focused on their target areas. However, if a unique idea is immediately shot down or poked so full of holes with negative comments, then the creativity that generated the new idea is diminished. I find that many business leaders want a new approach to processes yet fear the change that is automatically involved. This is the time for business leaders to face that fear but not so far as to jeopardize the organization. If a leader is asking for help with coming up with fresh concepts, then he or she must also be ready to support the idea at least through an initial phase of research and testing. I suggest the approach to prove the concept won’t work – come up with all worst case scenarios FIRST! Then the hard work of proving that the new concept is able to withstand the trials is already accomplished.
Once an innovative concept passes the test of acceptance (at least by upper management), the next challenge is correct implementation. Many great ideas fail to live up to expectations because of poor integration – into the current processes and into the company culture. People are inherently resistant to change, and an implementation means change. The best thing is to work on the plan for implementation so the entire team knows the steps involved and its expected role. The next step before anything else must be education and training. The more communication the better! For example, I always share good news and bad news as soon as I know it because no one really likes surprises (except on their birthdays). If it is bad news, then the initial shock can diminish and I can be better prepared later on. Good news means happiness, but I can still be prepared for the upcoming changes. I feel the worst when something is different from what I expect and I figure it out on my own, and THEN get the memo about it. At this point I’m already unhappy about the situation; telling me the details after the fact will not help. In fact, my trust in the process and in my leadership has been negatively affected by this lack of communication.
After communicating the changes early and often, the new idea is ready to roll out to a prepared environment. It takes time, planning and effort but it is worth it to see something really make an impact!
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team