Thursday, April 15, 2010

On ideas, decisions and actions

Ideas are somewhat like babies--they are born small, immature, and shapeless. They are promise rather than fulfillment. In the innovative company executives do not say, "This is a damn-fool idea." Instead they ask, "What would be needed to make this embryonic, half-baked, foolish idea into something that makes sense, that is an opportunity for us?"
--- Peter Drucker
I really love this quote about ideas and the mandate to listen and take action. It's so easy to offhandedly dismiss an idea as foolish or lame. It takes a concerted effort to listen and look outside of our comfort zone and think "how can I take this idea, and improve it and turn it into an opportunity."

David Allen in Getting Things Done spends some time discussing how most companies go about so-called brain storming starting from "who's got a good idea." At that point, they're already behind. By applying a filter of "is this good" while fleshing out idea possibilities we lose "bad" ideas that could have lead to good ideas, and we stifle creativity. The subconscious is very fickle and will clam up if you don't appear to be ready to listen. His thesis is that we tend to do the correct 5 steps, but in a ineffectual reverse order.

Brainstorm first, then filter as a second pass. Over at manager tools they refer to this as the "peanut butter rule." During brainstorming, the facilitator writes down every idea suggested, with no regard for quality only quantity. "If you say 'peanut butter' I'm writing it down."

"In fact, no decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone's work assignment and responsibility. Until then there are only good intentions."
--- Peter Drucker
What do we do once we have these new ideas? We must turn them into action. Specific actionable goals, that are then added to someone's work queue and tracked. This is one of Peter's more eloquent quotes, I love the innuendo implied by good intentions.
le proverbe tiré de notre saint Bernard, ‘L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs’
The proverb from our Saint Bernard, "Hell is full of good intentions and desires"
---- St. Francis de sales, Letter lxxiv.

@ideas = brainstorm();
@actionable_ideas = grep { is_good($_) } map { extract_kernel( $_) } @ideas;
map { $work_queue->add($_), $work_tracking->add($_) } @actionable_ideas;

Now get out there and make some ideas! listen to some other ideas! Get those ideas out of your head and turn them into action plans. Then take action. Boom, change happens.

"Are you ever gonna run out of ideas?"

I run out of ideas every day. Each day I live in mortal fear that I've used up the last idea that will ever come to me.

If you don't want to run out of ideas, the best thing to do is not to execute them. You can tell yourself that you don't have the time or resources to do 'em right. Then they stay around in your head like BRAIN CRACK. No matter how bad things get, at least you still have those good ideas... that you'll get to later.

Some people get addicted to that brain crack. And the longer they wait the more they convince themselves of how perfectly that idea should be executed. They imagine it on a beautiful platter with glitter and rose petals. And everyone is clapping for them.

But the bummer is, most ideas kinda suck when you do 'em. And no matter how much you plan, you still have to do something for the first time. You're almost guaranteed the first time you do something, it'll blow. But someone who does something bad three times and fails, still has three times the experience of that other person who is still dreaming of all that applause.

When I get an idea, I try to get it out of my head and into the world as fast as possible, because I certainly don't want to be addicted to BRAIN CRACK.
--- Ze Frank 2006-July-11

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