Letting Go

When was the last time you tried something new? How did it make you feel? If you’re adventurous, you probably felt thrilled. If you’re fearful, you are probably still wondering if the experience was worth the risk. So it is with organizations. Adventurous (or proactive) organizations thrive; the fearful (or reactive) survive—just barely.

Organizations (and individuals) that cannot let go of “dead ideas” are doomed to failure. Think about how many processes your organization manages every day. How many of these processes are preventing you and your staff from being maximally productive? Why aren’t the processes updated? Is it because everyone is so overworked that there is no time to address the issue?

If there is no time now to address the issue, then when? Constantly relegating issues to the backburner is like clinging to the old ways in the hope that the old ways will somehow magically reinvent themselves. These old ways are nothing more than dead ideas. And there is no place for dead ideas in productive organizations.

The sad news is that this way of thinking is not confined to individuals or the executive boardroom. Governments also think this way. This inability to let go of tired thinking is decaying everyone and everything.

Much has been written about change management because change is difficult to accomplish (think about changing just one of your habits—it takes at least three months of solid effort to build a new habit). But what seems to be coming through in organizations is that for change to occur, all employees need to be onboard. This requires changing old ways of thinking.

So how do we let go of old ways of thinking, of dead ideas? According to Matt Miller, there are three steps.

  1. Identify the ideas that matter. Since we can’t boil the ocean, pick the projects or ideas that will really make a profoundly positive impact on your organization or your life. These ideas will typically be strategic—those “sacred cow” ideas that no one has dared question until now.
  2. Understand each dead idea’s “story.” This comes down to identifying the root cause. How did this process become so entrenched with sub-processes? Why did this process seem to make sense in the first place? By understanding the root of the idea, it’s much easier to discern an action for change.
  3. Reach for new ways of thinking. Don’t dismiss ideas because they seem counterintuitive. If they seem counterintuitive, this may be a sign of how skewed our thinking has become; entrenched with only one way of doing things. Brainstorm. Look at possibilities. By reaching for new ways of thinking, we expand our minds.

In the end, we owe it to ourselves and our organizations to continuously improve and grow. By shedding old ways of doing things and inventing and implementing new concepts, we all thrive. Don’t get stuck in an outdated paradigm just because it’s been there all along.

35 Ways to Kill Ideas

I do not know the author of this list, but I found it to be a concise expose on how leaders (or anyone) can stifle innovation. It bears heeding that all ideas are valid ideas and some, if percolated sufficiently, may even lead to ingenious breakthroughs. Some of the world’s greatest inventors started out with ideas that at first bombed. Never underestimate or dismiss an idea, no matter how ridiculous it may seem at first. Here are “35 Ways to Kill Ideas.” Use these statements only if you wish to remain status quo.

  1. Don’t be ridiculous
  2. We tried that before.
  3. It costs too much.
  4. It can’t be done.
  5. That’s beyond our/your responsibility.
  6. It’s too radical a change.
  7. We don’t have the time.
  8. That will make other equipment obsolete.
  9. We’re too small/big for it.
  10. That’s not our problem.
  11. We’ve never done it before.
  12. Let’s get back to reality.
  13. Why change it; it’s still working OK.
  14. You’re two years ahead of your time.
  15. We’re not ready for that.
  16. It isn’t in the budget.
  17. Can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
  18. Do the best you can with what you’ve got.
  19. Too hard to sell.
  20. Top management would never go for it.
  21. We’ll be the laughing stock.
  22. Let’s shelve it for the time being.
  23. We did all right without it.
  24. Has anyone else ever tried it?
  25. It won’t work in our industry.
  26. Will you guarantee it will work?
  27. That’s the way we’ve always done it.
  28. What we have is good enough.
  29. But we would also have to change the …
  30. It’s in our future plans.
  31. We’ll have somebody study that problem.
  32. It’s against our policy.
  33. The supplier would never do that.
  34. The customer wouldn’t accept that.
  35. When did you become the expert?