It is August so what better topic to write about that Santa Claus. It seems in our crazy consumer society it is never too early to begin discussing the holiday season.
I once worked with someone years ago who taught me a great lesson about innovation and how Santa plays into the process. Spoiler alert - this contains info for those who believe in Santa.
Once, while this co-worker and I were talking he told me "sometimes you have to think like Santa Claus to get people to buy into new ideas." He had my attention. "You see, Rich, you don't have kids yet so this might not connect with you, but as a parent of little kids you can't take ANY credit for ANY gift. Even though you have bought, wrapped, and stayed up late putting the gifts under the tree, you have to sit there on Christmas Day with sincere joy and let Santa take ALL the credit. The gifts and that fun moment are not about you - they are all about your kids - and you have to fully accept that and be happy."
His message was simple but a tough one to accept - don't worry about the credit, worry about the outcome. Yes, there may be some ideas that you may want to have your name on. However, most of us never invent something like the telephone or the light bulb. With that in mind, why all the concern with credit? Maybe it's time to focus more on the outcome and true goal, i.e. get ideas embraced, implemented, and have engaged and happy employees. That sounds like a pretty good gift to me!
Ideas are often generated at the beginning of a process when a team is presented with a challenge or situation that requires creative thinking. However, ideas are needed at many more points along the way.
For example, years ago while working for a TV station I was leading an effort to develop a program about the top golf courses along the east coast. What was interesting was that our team spent a tremendous amount of energy coming up with this idea and how to present the concept to senior management in order to obtain funding and support for the project.
Finally the big day came when we assembled to meet with the station's leaders and pitch the show. About five minutes into the discussion one of the people reviewing our presentation asked, "what if it rains?" An awful silence engulfed the room. In a split second I realized that we had not spent time thinking creatively about the 'what if' statements we were about to be asked. We were so focused on what I will call the fun aspects of the project none of us had stopped to realize that we needed ideas on all those "messy" aspects of any initiative - risks, stakeholders, process flows, back-up plans, etc.
Therefore, while everyone seems to want the next big idea, often the little ideas are the ones that determine the success or failure of a project.
Side note: Thinking quick on my feet I responded with "well, we will be driving down the coast and then back up the coast so if it rains on the way down we can make up the video shoot on the way back." While there are obvious holes in that logic it seemed to calm people's concerns and we loaded up our clubs and hit the road a few days later.