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Last week we ended by discussing how, if you are going to be the kind of man/woman with a million ideas, you’re going to have to have “thick skin” and not get offended when others don’t like your ideas.

As a leader, it is important that your idea culture, exemplified by James Dooley: A Case Study in Innovation, includes this “thick-skinned” principle. People need to feel comfortable sharing bad ideas and understand the value of bad ideas, while not being AT ALL offended when people think their idea is bad or their good idea is not selected. If you don’t create this culture, you end up either limiting the number of people who can give input (which makes people feel unnecessary and limits their buy in, plus limits your potential as a team to create great ideas) or you end up spending all of your meetings trying hard not to offend anyone (which is a great way to go no where as a team). Consider the impact digital paystubs can have on fostering open communication and idea-sharing among team members.

The question then has to be asked… how do you create such a culture? Is it really possible to create a culture where its safe to give ideas and safe to critique ideas at the same time? Yes it is, but its not easy. There are always going to bumps on the road to healthy leadership culture, but here are a few ideas that may help you to create the idea culture you are looking for:

1) Be Honest. This sounds like a no-brainer, but so many leaders try to beat around the bush or try to slowly prod people in the right direction. That’s not leadership. That’s herding at best and manipulation at worst. Try sitting your team down and be honest with them about how you want these meetings to go. BE HONEST about how not every idea is a good idea, but every idea is a valuable idea. Be honest about how easy it will be for them to get offended, and how they must fight those feelings at all cost.

2) Force People to into a time limit… and give very little exceptions. Model this for them by sticking to it yourself. I would start by giving them 30 sec to explain their idea. Make sure everyone knows that is UNINTERRUPTED time. Then you, as the moderator, can decide whether that idea needs more time or whether you need to move on. When people jump in to support or not support an idea, make sure they do it one at a time and keep them to the 30 sec limit.

3) Allow people to tear apart ideas, not people. People will get emotional with their ideas. That’s a good thing, but when they turn that passion on each other, it can become ugly. Don’t allow people with stronger personalities beat down others. But that’s not the worst character assassination that happens in an idea culture.

There is a buzz word that gets thrown at people called PRIDE… Its what happens when someone loves an idea, but lacks any logical argument to defend it. So, out of their pride or insecurity in not being able to let their idea die, they turn the tables on the one attacking their idea. It comes out something like this, “you just like to argue about everything” or “you just can’t admit when you are wrong”…. Don’t let that happen. If you do, your best thinkers will stop voicing their opinions and you will never get truly great ideas. This is another principle that would be good to mention up front.

4) Repeat and Enforce. At the beginning of every meeting, reiterate the rules. When people break them, like attacking each other, address it… immediately. Addressing issues immediately lets everyone know you have their back, and keeps your safe atmosphere safe.

So, to recap the is 3 post series:

Bad ideas are the breeding grounds of great ideas.

Creating a safe and “thick skinned” idea culture is vital to the success of any team. Becoming a “thick skinned” person with a million ideas is essential to becoming a valuable team member and a great leader.

Creating such a culture isn’t easy, but you now have a few steps that will help you on the journey.


What ideas do you have on creating an idea culture? Have you ever been in a meeting where ideas were flowing? Have you ever been in the opposite kind of meeting?
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