- On January 8, 2013
Have you ever been in one of those meetings where someone brings up an idea…and the rest of the group tears it apart like a pack of hungry crows on a piece of road kill? All too many times, you say?
Here’s an idea—“Top It!”
I have witnessed—and embarrassing to admit, been part of—organizations who have prided themselves on how many ideas they can leave strewn about like mortally wounded animals on the path to ‘progress.’
While there is definitely a valuable place for critical thinking, realistic assessment, and due diligence in the decision-making process, my caution here is that there is nothing to be ‘due’ about if the idea never sees the light of day. Far too many times, an overly critical culture impedes progress and innovation by squashing ideas before they are even given a chance to prove their possibility.
Here’s an idea that can help turn a naturally negative reaction to possible change into an engine for innovation—Top It!
When an idea is presented, the discussion doesn’t start with, “Find the hundred reasons why this won’t work.” It starts with “Top It!” Instead of picking it apart as to why it can’t be done, top it with something better. Turn the organizational mindset from one of killing new ideas to one of cultivating new ideas. Sure, some ideas can seem far-fetched. OK, so “Top It!” with something that might work.
This is the culture I witnessed at The Motley Fool when I visited their headquarters in Alexandria VA last week on one of their Free Fur All Friday culture tours. Finding a company that lives—and hires and fires—by the values they have hanging on the wall is refreshing, especially in such a political which-way-is-the-wind-blowing town as the Washington DC metro area.
One of The Motley Fool’s core values in “Innovative.” They are not unique in this; many companies list innovation as a value. But in how many companies do you actually see it in action, every day? At The Motley Fool, when team members start getting negative about an idea, someone will challenge with “Top It!” –turning the discussion from a negative into a positive. From why it won’t work, to how can we make it work. If no one can come up with any ideas for how to make it work better, then the idea stands on its own.
For many organizations, implementing a “Top It!” process may require a conscious culture change. If transparency and trust are not watch-words in your organization, it can be very easy to revert back to old patterns without a conscious effort by the leadership and timely re-focusing among the staff to embed this new practice.
But, it’s the New Year, and what better time to change old habits…including those that are holding you or your organization back from new ways of bringing your value to the world.