Who brought the ideas? – The Messenger did it

We have often spoken about how much we could get done if we did not care who got credit for the idea. There is a resistance within us to accept some ideas, especially ideas from certain people and at certain times. If a co-worker who is a competitor launches a suggestion we are quick to find flaws in their argument. If a person of lower stature on the totem pole fires a comment; we may be slow or reluctant to accept it.  Surely they don’t have the perspective to contribute to such a complex process. In reality the idea may be phenomenal, but we have a problem with the messenger.

This principle of “selective acceptance” applies to our professional and personal interactions. Many times in our obstinacy we would not do something because of the person who suggested it. If we came up with the idea on our own or a suitable supplier, we would readily implement it, no questions asked. But we would not give individuals or groups the satisfaction of knowing that their ideas influenced our decisions.

This tendency started in our youth when we wanted to exert our independence. It probably started as early as our toddler years when we said, “No” to be defiant to a parent. When we were older we wanted acceptance. Competition was also a part of our daily activities. We did not want anyone to have control over us in particular situations or to beat us in the game of life or sport. We therefore, tried to keep some people out of consideration.

Marriages have been affected because one party feels that the other wants to control them or take credit for everything. One person makes beneficial comments and the other views them as an attempt at dominance by their partner. On the job, a suggestion from a co-worker or someone lower in position is discarded. “I can’t accept an idea from them. What do they know? My ideas are better. I did not think of that one, so it must not be any good.”

If we simply let down our guard for a minute and ask three simple questions, it may change our lives.

  1. Would the implementation of the idea improve us or our situation?
  2. If we had thought of the idea, would we resist it as fervently?
  3. What could we do to make the idea work, if anything?

We may find our opposition to the suggestions may fade away. Our openness may usher in many life changing ideas. These ideas may transform lives and enhance our business results and environment.

The question isn’t who came up with the idea, but will it make us better, if given a chance for acceptance. There are instances where we see the value of an idea, but wish we had thought of it first. We may entertain the idea of repackaging the idea as our own. Resist the temptation. Don’t be an idea thief and shoot down the idea as irrelevant and inappropriate, knowing that you will reword it and pass it on as your own at a later date. The discovery of larceny of this kind will undermine credibility and reduce the number of ideas shared by the team. It is not worth the devastation of discovery. There are many more ideas where those came from and you want them to continue to flow freely.

My son Brian was resisting one of his Mother’s ideas. He was rebelling, it seemed, because he did not want her to be right again. I simply asked him to, “Stand back and step outside of the situation. If you did what she asked you to do, would it make you better? Try to be as objective as possible. Would it improve your circumstances or situation, if you did what she asked you to do?” He quietly considered the questions and saw the beauty of the idea. He saw the potential of her suggestions and conceded to give it a try. I am not saying this technique will work for everyone and in every situation, but it might intermittently have value as a part of your toolbox.

The messenger plays a vital role in innovation and workplace performance. Ideas sit in our minds waiting for the opportunity to launch themselves into our conversations. The messengers for these potential earth shaking ideas are challenged with an enormous responsibility. Step aside and allow the messenger to enter. Do not make it a gauntlet to the extent the messenger would rather travel elsewhere than to interject their opinion into your presence. The results could be catastrophic as you could be denied vital information that could improve you professionally and personally.

Who brought the ideas? The messenger did it. Your objective is to create a culture where this announcement is celebrated within the hallowed halls of your organization. The messenger is the carrier of the seeds of innovation. Their concepts may serve as the catalyst for greatness and the power to transform people, products and processes.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser

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