The Land Of “But”; Where Ideas Go To Die

Each day hundreds of thousands of ideas are formed, considered…and most often disregarded, cast-aside, and left to wither and die…

Each day, ideas, both good and bad, survive and thrive or wither and die due to the mindset in which they are formed and the environment in which they are tossed into.  Most barely make it through the gates of the kingdom before judgment is cast down up them.

In fact, most of our ideas are left to face the arena of lions in the coliseum…

A place where many of us are either unwilling or wanting to go.  And why should we?  Why should we want to make ourselves and our ideas vulnerable to an environment that is both unfriendly and unkind?  A place where our ideas are held up, ridiculed, shredded, and cast aside.

Unfortunately, many leaders, some knowing and others unknowingly, are much like the emperor of Rome…casting unsuspecting ideas into the arena without giving them much thought, before casting judgment upon them.  Into the arena they go.  Little time to show their worth or plead their case.

For organizations to thrive, to remain creative and innovative idea factories, we need a safe place where our ideas can have time to incubate, percolate, warm up, stretch, play, and grow…to see if they can break through their shell into living, thriving beings capable of action.

For this to happen, we have to learn to curb the quickness of our critical voices.  Creative companies, such as Pixar and IDEO, have worked diligently to create processes that curb that instantaneous rush to judgment on ideas…no matter how off the wall or ridiculous they may be.

In his book, Little Bets, Peter Sims discusses how a creative company such as Pixar uses a strategy called “plussing” to improve their idea process.  Sims shares that…“The point of plussing is to build upon and improve ideas without using judgmental language.  Creating an atmosphere where ideas are constantly being plussed, while maintaining a sense of humor and playfulness…”

Very often, the language leaders use does more to eradicate than “plus” ideas within individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole.  And when that happens, when the language is judgmental and lacks the ability to further and acknowledge the thinking and ideas of those within…then people will no longer be willing to share their ideas or thinking.

And why should they…

Very often, it is the very language within our processes that determines how we grow, flourish and build capacity as an organization…as well as our ability to engage thinking, create ideas, and remain creative and innovative.

Peter Sims, using Pixar as an example in Little Bets“Again, notice the use of the word and rather than a word that implies a judgment, such as but.”  He continues that Pixar uses “suggestions” within the idea process such as “what if” or “would if be clearer if” as ways that “everyone at Pixar has gotten very good at plussing ideas or changing directions without judging.”  Sims goes on to add that…“effective plussing requires that people let go of the need to control every detail.”  

Which means that when leaders fail to use “plussing” language and have this need to “control every detail”…not only does the creative and innovative processes begin to wither and diminish across the organization…so doe the sharing of ideas and thinking.

And when this happens…

The organization loses its ability to effectively function as a collaborative, creative, and innovative force.

Unfortunately, many people have to spend their days in the land of the organizational “but”.  A place where ideas go to die…as well as the thinking, creativity and innovation of that very organization.

It is only when we learn how to “plus” our organizations, that we learn how to take ourselves out from the dry, desolate landscape of “but”…to the land of “and”

That we truly begin to engage the thinking, ideas, creativity and innovation inherent within our organizations…

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2 thoughts on “The Land Of “But”; Where Ideas Go To Die

  1. David wrote:

    For organizations to thrive, to remain creative and innovative idea factories, we need a safe place where our ideas can have time to incubate, percolate, warm up, stretch, play, and grow…to see if they can break through their shell into living, thriving beings capable of action.

    ——————-

    Such a great quote, Pal.

    And what makes it so damn frustrating to me is that I work in a coercive profession in a coercive state where letting my ideas incubate, stretch, play and grow could get me canned.

    My question is what can school leaders do to create spaces for this kind of percolation even in the face of today’s accountability culture?

    Bill

  2. When I attended the Science and Innovation Summit, I heard the facilitators teach the students to respond with Yes… and! This is exactly what “plussing” is and is create to develop ideas and forward innovative thinking!

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