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Listen! Are You Ignoring Great Innovative Ideas?

About 25% of the ideas your employees voice are never heard. On the other hand, it is likely that you are willing to listen to any expensive outside consultant, who will kindly tell you what your employees already knew. By the way, the more you pay, the more likely you are to listen.

The Washington Post blog post, “The troubling flaws in how we select experts,” gives interesting insights in why we don’t listen to our own people, but are willing to follow the advice of (less qualified) consultants. Unfortunately, this blog post does not provide a solution to the problem. Yet, there is one.

Did you think, well, all those ideas were flawed anyway?

How do you react when someone shares an idea with you? It is likely that your first inclination is to reason why the idea will not work, why it is not desirable, why it is too costly, and impossible to implement. While the story is being told, you envision all the roadblocks on its way, quickly dismissing the idea’s feasibility. Yet, many great ideas were initially perceived to be really stupid, and certainly did not work flawlessly, nor were they great improvements over existing alternati0135ves.

Think about the first car, plane, or version of the internet. These inventions were certainly not a pleasure to use in their first iteration! It takes listening skills to understand futuristic ideas that are being shared, and a vision to see how these ideas can come true.

So suppress the thoughts of bottlenecks and objections that cross your mind next time someone shares an idea. Listen to what is being said and try to envision what the invention could be or could do.

And if you yourself have a wild idea, be smart about who you share your idea with. Use your inner circle of friends to get feedback. Listen for how they react, their objections, and what they do and don’t understand. This process will make you better equipped to pitch your idea and counter objections when sharing it with a wider audience.

Where to start?

Don’t start with evaluating the promise of an idea. In the past 30 years, predictions of success have not gotten any better than about 10%. With more radical—and potentially more exciting—ideas, prediction rates are even lower.

Rather, start by allowing employees to explore the ideas they have. What needs to happen for the idea to come true? What would make the idea not worth pursuing? What information is needed to take the idea to the next stage? These kinds of questions can typically be answered without requiring much in the way of resources. Meanwhile, your employees have a chance to strengthen their ideas, so they are better equipped to pitch them to critics and listeners with an attention span of 30 seconds or less.

Interested in learning more about how to structure the idea generation stage of the innovation process? Interested in no longer wasting the 25% of great ideas that you are currently missing within your own organization? Visit us at, or contact us at info “at” organizing4innovation “dot” com.





Washington Post blog: The Troubling flaws in how we select experts 2014

PDMA comparative performance assessment study 2013

The Organizational Life of an Idea: Integrating Social Network, Creativity and Decision-Making Perspectives, Kijkuit and Van den Ende 2007