How To Fight For That Big Idea
I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration and great ideas, and how these two things combined with passionate people working together can accomplish monumental things. Anyone who knows me well understands that I love – really love to the core of my being – working with others to create big change. It’s an exciting thing to experience and, over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to overcome the obstacles that inevitably come with big change.
How Does A Big Idea Start?
The interesting thing about big change is that it often comes in the most unassuming package. Two or more people come together, inspired with the spark of an idea. They share the idea and a few more people say, “Wow, great idea!”
While big change typically starts off with great momentum, it’s usually quickly followed by what I call the “dream crushers”. Dream crushers come in unassuming packages too. Sometimes they are even friends and supporters. A dream crusher can also be really smart. So, we’re rallied together with our great idea, and in swoops the “dream crusher” under the guise of a supporter. This so-called supporter says something like, “’Great idea! But, do you think …..instead?” Finish it any way you want; just like that, it means this great idea has just been dismissed and is now flailing. Someone has rained on our proverbial parade.
At that point, a few things can happen:
- We let the idea go – deciding it wasn’t a great idea after all.
- We listen to the opposing thought, incorporate it into our great idea and come up with an even greater idea.
- We get buy off from the “powers that be” and move forward with the great idea. [There are always powers that be, no matter how esteemed one’s job title may be.]
If you choose the third option, the idea then has a fighting chance to be manifested and to become a reality with the love and support of its champions.
How Do You Sustain and Propel Your Big Idea?
When it comes to creating and ushering in big ideas, it helps to:
- Understand that inspiration, enthusiasm and passion are needed to give birth to change.
- Realize change happens in groups. Yep, we can be part of it, but we cannot and never will be able to make big things happen all by ourselves. Yes, one person can make a huge difference, which may sound like a contradiction, but it’s not. It means that the one person is holding space for others to join in and support/be a part of the idea/change initiative.
- Respect that we only have so much time and energy, so it’s important to pick wisely when deciding what idea to rally behind.
- Know that ideas will be challenged. Although “dream crushers” can be disheartening, they challenge us and our big ideas for very good reasons – to validate whether an idea should come into existence, to make the idea (and us) stronger, and to remind us to get buy-in from others.
- Have the courage to be bold and speak about an idea, and fight for it when important enough, even if it’s embarrassing or means stepping out of our comfort zone.
Why Is A Big Idea So Important?
In the public sector health arena, we devote our lives to helping people improve/change for the better. We expect them to stretch out of their comfort zones, too often leave behind everything they know and reach for something better. Shouldn’t we do the same?
As leaders and professionals devoted to improving the lives of others, we need to continually challenge the status quo, to look for ways to create change and transform our systems of care – we need to be open to and stand up for “great ideas”.
What Do You Do When Presented With A Big Idea?
As I mentioned above, great ideas can come in unassuming packages. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. In my experience as a leader, an employee may come to me and say, “if we changed x, it could improve y”. In that moment, I recommend a few things:
- Become very still
- Stop texting, looking at email or doodling
- Look straight at the person
- Keep an open mind and really listen
Most importantly, remember that you have in front of you an amazing human being, who is taking the time to think about how things can be better when he or she already has too much to do and is likely burdened by a myriad of everyday stressors from work and personal demands. In that moment, you can be that second person who says “great idea!” breathing life into a concept, however small, that can potentially make something better.
What if the idea presented is a bad one? I know there aren’t supposed to be bad questions or ideas, but some days an idea can seem like a waste of time or resources, not worth it or downright harmful. If that happens, it’s an opportunity to practice being an encouraging leader. Saying something like “thanks for bringing up that idea, let’s talk more about that” can often turn the conversation into an even better idea!
In the end, as leaders we decide. Are we going to create an environment that encourages innovation and change or that teaches people to play it safe and crush dreams? When we choose encouragement, we become the champions of great change!