Here’s a two part suggestion to getting results on proposals, projects, plans in progress, story ideas, and whatever else you might be working on: bring something to the table, and be willing to check your ego.
Bring Something– One thing that really gets any new idea moving is pre-loading the first meetings with an idea. If you’re going to brainstorm a new business, don’t come completely open and empty. Bring a starter concept. If you’re thinking of starting a stationary store, have an idea what you might do to differentiate yourself from the bulk office supply store. It’s a starter idea. It doesn’t have to be the final idea. It’s something for everyone to consider, to grab onto, to hold. Coming with nothing in hand is often too open-ended.
And this can apply to anything. Are you trying to shave hours back to cut expenses at your retail store? Are you talking with your significant other about vacation plans? Do you want a raise? Have something in hand to start the discussion with. Bring your suggested schedule for employees. Have travel brochures and a tentative budget. Show results and differentiation between you and the other employees. Whatever. Bring something.
Check Your Ego– It’s fair to assume that the first idea won’t be the best. Even if you think it is, there’s usually an improvement to be had. This is where the process breaks down fairly quickly if you’re not willing to work hard on checking your ego. What do I mean? Be completely willing to hear alterations to your ideas, even if the original idea doesn’t survive in any obvious way. If the end result is better, and is what everyone (including you) wants, isn’t it worth it to stand back from the whole issue of being prideful in your idea?
Here’s an example. I needed a lot of information on some technical processes and logistics. I asked around. Nothing. No one seemed to know how this work got done, and if they did, no one felt like helping me explain it in a document. So, I wrote my own stab at the whole process. Some of it was fairly accurate, but in other places, I had no clue whatsoever how parts of the process worked. (Usually, at that point, I’d insert something utterly ludicrious: “the cell towers are maintained by talking sheep.”)
Lo and behold, the moment I sent that document out as “the definitive guide” to those processes, I had critics galore! I had people come out of the woodwork via email (some I’d thought no longer even worked for our company), all eager to tell me where I was wrong. I just put my hands behind my head, smiled broadly, and watched the content I needed come in.
Be Open to the Possibilities- Often times, especially with brainstorming, ideas can go from an idea that makes sense from your perspective into something far bigger once you open up the idea to others. It’s the whole “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” thing. To that end, always be willing to accept the ways in which your idea might morph into something utterly different than what you started with. In most cases (not all), the end result is much better than the original plan, broad enough to include more than just your own unique abilities, and sustainable for that very reason.
The beauty of working with lots of creative, intelligent people is that you can often grow ideas from something modest into something dynamic and useful. Not unlike exposing your software’s API for further development, consider giving your ideas APIs so that people can further develop them. The results should be much nicer than the original premise (on average).
Have you experienced this first hand? Tell us about it.
–Chris Brogan creates content at GrasshopperFactory.com . Be ready for a new Lifehack podcast tomorrow, 6/21. If you haven’t subscribed to the RSS feed, please do. That will deliver the content right to your reader of choice, into your portable media player, or wherever else you want access to the wisdom of Leon Ho’s Lifehack.org