Companies don’t need more ideas, they need ideas that are more meaningful. Companies have plenty ideas because they measure and track the number of new ideas generated. Enter your idea on the company’s open innovation web portal, and you’re done. Let the record show that a new idea was added to the hopper. Increment the counter and update the metrics. One new idea for the good guys. It’s a good day to be alive.
For some reason leaders are comforted by a large number of new ideas in the hopper even though there’s no hope of working on them. Maybe they think there’s value in a backlog of ideas they can fall back on if the existing work doesn’t pan out. If that’s the case, they probably think the ideas in the hopper have good potential. But because the ideas are not graded on their potential, that’s simply wishful thinking.
The only thing good about counting the number of new ideas is that the number of new ideas is easy to count. The good thing about grading ideas on their level of meaningfulness is it causes the most meaningful ideas to rise to the top. The bad thing about grading ideas is that it requires judgement. And today, judgment is in short supply. If you use your judgement poorly your career suffers, but if you avoid using your judgement no one notices. Here’s a rule: If you never you use your judgement, you can never use it poorly.
For a select few, any work that doesn’t require judgment doesn’t rise to the level of work worth doing. For them, only the most meaningful work will do, and rolling the dice on their career is simply the cost of doing business. For them, it’s judgement or bust.
If you use your judgement and choose to work on a meaningful idea, be prepared for the loneliness. Meaningful ideas are, by definition, understood by a few and misunderstood by the rest. It’s lonely to advance an idea that most don’t understand. And prepare to be misjudged for your actions because your steadfast pursuit of the idea will also be misunderstood. Your vigor and aliveness will be seen as aggressiveness, anger, negativity, closemindedness, or political incorrectness. But this misjudgment comes with the territory. There’s no way around it. It’s just how it goes. It’s not personal.
But just as the trivial many will try to tear you down, there are a vital few who will praise you, support you and bolster you. These are the special people in your organization. You know who I’m talking about. You have a personal relationship with them. You know about their families. You’ve been through tough times together. They’ve seen you struggle, stumble and tumble, and they’ve seen you get up and move forward. They’ve seen you run into a brick wall and helped you back to your feet. Don’t dismiss their praise and don’t feel guilty about accepting help from them. They don’t want credit for helping you, they want you to succeed.
You don’t know this, but those special people want to help you because you’ve already helped them. Some time ago you unknowingly helped them through a tough time, or were kind to them. Or, you invested in them or believed in them. More than likely, though, you inspired them.
Keep moving forward. Keep pushing. And take comfort from the special people that believe in you.
image credit – ice man
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Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.