Some say that money makes the world go around. I say that ideas are what make the world around us happen (often fueled by money in order for them to take root and prosper).
This past year, two Hollywood blockbuster movies deeply explored the power of an idea, albeit in different ways. Inception explored the notion of altering the future through the planting of ideas during a person's dream state and brought literal meaning
to the phrase "getting inside someone's head." The Social Network showed how one geeky college student was able to change the world through a single yet powerful idea that has affected the lives of nearly one out of 10 people on Earth — and the need for obsessive focus in order to accomplish his goal (I don't think he's done yet, by the way).
And while Hollywood portrays the power of ideas at the extreme, our everyday world is better because people invest the time and energy to bring life to their ideas. Each December for the past 10 years, the Sunday New York Times Magazine has published "The Ideas File." My personal favorites this year are "The Train That Never Stops" and "Relaxation Drinks" (think anti-Red Bull).
My consulting practice is guided by a similar theme — ideas in action — that captures what I strive to help my clients achieve in their companies, businesses and medical practices.
What about you: Is your place of work a fountain of new ideas? Are you an active participant in the process? My view is that becoming an "idea factory" is as much a learned behavior as it is an innate gift, with two conditions required to make it happen:
Giving: You must be willing to propose ideas that could make your product or service better.
Receiving: You must be willing to listen and consider ideas from others who could do the same.
A truly wonderful resource for this comes in the form of Chic Thompson's What a Great Idea! 2.0, a book that is full of ideas, exercises and techniques to help you and your group do a better job of fostering ideas and innovation and avoid those "killer phrases" that keep us from being creative at work and at home. I first met Chic about 10 years ago when we spoke at the same event. His impact has stuck with me, and I share with you two nuggets from his body of work:
Professional: When hearing a new idea, the typical person evaluates and shuts it down in under 8 seconds. Rather than being so quick to judge, just allow the idea to sit for at least 30 seconds before responding. I've found this tremendously helpful at keeping me from prejudging thoughts that are worth considering.
Personal: At the dinner table, I've been known to ask our kids, "What questions did you ask today?" and have found this to be far more provocative than the traditional "What did you learn at school today?" All of us need to help our kids understand that
curiosity is developed through the art of asking questions.
Here's to a great 2011. May your ideas be the ones that change the world around you!
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