In a recent workshop, a senior leader remarked that he had never considered half-baked ideas to be very valuable. He previously thought that ideas needed to be fully formed before they could see the light of day.
The fact is that many valuable ideas don’t look like much when they first appear. Even the work of the Wright Brothers was one of many efforts occurring at the same time around the world. And at first glance the two of them working at Kitty Hawk would not have looked like much, just a couple guys with a rickety glider and a giant wooden slide.
Yet ideas that are not fully formed may hold kernels of insight for new products, new markets and improved processes. In fact, if leaders are not seeing many half-baked ideas that may be an indicator that people are unwilling to share, don’t know that that their leaders might be interested in new perspectives, or both. Without new perspectives, it is unlikely that organizations will be as agile, innovative, and (ultimately) valuable as they know they want to be.
So how does a leader go about getting more half-baked ideas and what should they do when they see one?
First, show that you value suggestions and the people bringing them. Take time to listen. Don’t jump into why it won’t work. Don’t foist them off to “run it by” someone else.
Second, be ready to have conversations to develop ideas. If the idea doesn’t appear to be immediately interesting, seek to understand what parts of it are of interest and maximize those, while minimizing those that are not as interesting.
Third, give people tools and networks so that they can more fully develop their ideas even before they get to you.
And lastly, do some events where the creative, off-the-wall thinking is encouraged. It is hard to always be the creative encouraging, thoughtful leader we want to be. Especially when we have weeks full of high-stress days with lots of things due at once. “Chunking” tasks is a powerful time management technique because it lumps similar tasks like responding to emails and phone calls together. Getting creative is no different. Consider having regular sessions with your organization and team where ideas are overtly solicited and everyone has the chance to chime in and create together.
A baby giraffe will be up and walking within an hour of being born. Until then they are understandably ungainly and prone to fall over. Ideas are similar. Most start life looking a little shaky, but with a little patience and nurturing some can really take off.