Every major accomplishment in the world today began in someone’s head. Yes, you heard it… it began as a dream. Do you pay attention to your dreams and to the dreams of your staff? If not, you could be missing out on some really amazing ideas. We need to value dreams more. Because we are all different people from birth, our ideas… our dreams have different insight into the world around us.
Everyone has dreams; dreams of how their lives and the lives of those around them could be better. For some the dreams may be few and far between; no one has asked them about them in a long time and so they have stopped paying attention. Too many people have told them, “you’ve gotta be realistic.” For others, their dreams are still frequent and profound. The people around us have ideas… have hopes that our organizations could be more effective. We would be well advised to get them to share their thoughts often. You never know when someone might share something that could give us a totally different slant on the challenges we have been struggling with.
If we only are concerned that our employees put in 8 hours of honest work, we are only getting half a loaf from them. Their hopes, ideas and dreams may represent their most powerful contribution to the organization. But paying attention to our dreams requires a special kind of freedom that few of us give ourselves or those around us. Dreamers, people who come up with exciting, out of the box ideas, are often criticized. The really good ones however, are not deterred. Consider, for example:
• Henry Ford was told that what people really wanted was a faster horse.
• Alexander Graham Bell was told that the telephone had too many flaws to ever be taken seriously.
• Thomas Edison failed miserably, hundreds of time, before he could get a light bulb to ignite; once his lab actually blew up.
• The Wright Bros were told that a heavier than air machine would never fly.
• Michael DeBakey’s first few heart transplant patients all died within a few hours of surgery; now we do 10-15 heart transplants a day in this country.
Imagine the cost to society if these persons would have abandoned their dreams in the face of failure. Imagine Martin Luther King saying, “I have a dream… but I don’t think they are ready for it yet.”
So are you really mining your employees for their ideas about how to make things better: more effective, more efficient? Here are four tips from marketing guru Alex Osborn that will help you motivate your staff to share their ideas:
1. Defer judgement. No criticism of anyone’s idea. Don’t be a “wet blanket”.
2. Strive for quantity. The more ideas you come up with the more likely that one or more of them will be a game-changer.
3. Encourage the really weird or crazy ideas. The wilder, the better. Osborn said, “it’s easier to tame down than it is to think up.”
4. Look for opportunities to link ideas together and create something more powerful than either one of them would have been separately.
Your organization needs new ideas. The world is changing too fast for us to be certain that yesterday’s solutions will be helpful. But as the leader, you don’t have to come up with all of them yourself. In fact your primary job is to get them from your staff. Dream on! Dream on!