Why Don't Good Ideas Work?

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Creativity and Innovation

Why Don't Good Ideas Work?

If That's Such A Good Idea, Why Isn't It Working?

They say that imitation is one of the highest compliments.

We see it all the time in businesses. One company comes out with a new product and soon its competition produces a similar product.

In our communities we see individuals add something unusual to their landscapes and suddenly everyone has it. Churches, schools, community organisations, newspapers... the list goes on and on... all trade compliments as they copy each other hoping for different results.

If what other people are doing is such a good idea, why isn't it working?

When the Titanic set sail, the captain and crew had a plan that certainly didn't involve sinking in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

But because of what happened to the Titanic, subsequent journeys across the Atlantic probably took different paths. No one wanted to duplicate the fate of the Titanic.

Today, however, we live in a world where people have abandoned their creativity and choose instead to simply repeat the less-than-ingenious actions and ideas of others. We've grown so lazy that we don't even think for ourselves anymore!

Marketers recognise the fact that it doesn't take much to fool us! Corporations repackage bad products and use clever marketing to convince us they have released new products.

I once sat in a meeting with representative of a large Christian publisher and heard the employees "oooh and ahhh" when one of its curriculum "gurus" said, "We want to make the changes in the curriculum so drastic that no one notices." (Please pause and reread that statement until its absurdity overwhelms you!) What in the world does that mean?

What the company actually is doing is repackaging an idea it abandoned about six years ago and marketing it as something new and innovative.

Sadly, few of its customers will see the products for what they are. I pointed out the thinly veiled return to the past and was deleted from the list of people to be invited to future meetings!

What ever happened to originality? At a time when we have all of the tools we need to create new solutions to age-old problems, we recycle old solutions and perpetuate the frustrations that are caused by dealing with the same things over and over. We need a plan that will enable us to use our brains to become the creative people we were designed to be.

There is one caution, however.

Many of today's "stuck in the past" corporations do not appreciate nor desire thinking people. Trust me on this one!

1. Discover and use your creative time

Even people who believe they don't have much creativity can be creative. Morning people and night owls don't necessarily share the same schedules, but we all have a time during the day when we are most creative. For the morning person, that time comes early... probably 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m.

For the night owl, that time is more likely 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Think about your day and determine which of those time slots best represents your most-productive time. When you discover your creative time, try to move into that time slot the activities that require the most creativity.

When I worked at a corporation, I discovered that my creative time often was occupied with meetings that were unnecessary because the decisions we were discussing already had been made by the people responsible for recycling old ideas! Now, as an entrepreneur, I can utilise my creative time to do the things that require my creativity. This subtle shift has made an incredible difference in my sense of accomplishment and achievement.

2. Don't be afraid to try

Fear of failure paralyses people who have some good ideas. Thomas Edison failed 999 times before he succeeded in inventing the light bulb. Try something new and learn from your mistakes. Allow the experience of a new solution to inform your future actions. Make note of the points at which your idea stopped working and use your notes to guide future attempts.

3. Don't get boxed in with the past

When I worked for a large corporation I realised that most of the new ideas were nothing more than slight adjustments to existing ideas that weren't working. We were never allowed to wipe the slate clean and start over. When the boundaries of our creative thinking are identical to the boundaries of a bad idea, the chances of success are slim.

Step outside your perception of the situation and involve people who are not immersed in the culture in your search for solutions. The way we've always done things isn't the only way we can do them... except in certain corporations!

4. Carefully evaluate all of the information

Many decisions are based on bad information that is creatively presented. "Our sales might increase up to 65%" means sales could decrease, stay the same, on increase very little or up to 65%. So, the original statement means no one really knows what the outcome will be but we're covering our bases with a vague statement that is intended to make people think the information supports the intended results.

I sat in another meeting with the curriculum publisher as the marketing team lamented the 25-year downward trend in curriculum sales. The decrease was 3% per year. That very day, I had read statistical data showing that the curriculum customer base had decreased 3.5% per year.

So my question was obvious--how can more curriculum be sold to fewer people? My question was dismissed because the customer data was not a part of the marketing team's research. This is just one example of only using data that supports a predetermined course of action. We do this as individuals and groups... but it is counter-productive!

5. Surround yourself with people who make you think

Our attitudes and values are the visible manifestations of our points of view. Our points of view are directly connected to our habits of mind. This might seem complicated but it simply means that most people never stop to consider why they believe what they believe.

Their beliefs and values are rooted in their pasts--family traditions, societal expectations, religious values, and so forth.

Thinking people enjoy the process of digging deeper to discover fallacies in their thinking and then changing their opinions and attitudes in accordance with newly discovered truths.

"This is just the way I am" and "I was raised this way" are code for "I don't want to use my brain, I'd rather perpetuate ignorance!" I'd be hesitant to take advice from people who let celebrities and newscasters think for them!

The bottom line is that doing things the way we've always done them isn't the solution to every problem. I've heard it said that if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting. Dare to think outside the box... you just might be surprised at how much fun it can be! Think about it!

The following article was contributed by Dr. Terry Hadaway who is an author, motivational speaker, university professor, and conference leader.

Dr. Terry Hadaway is an author, motivational speaker, university professor, and conference leader who is recognised as a leading authority on elearning, decision-making, and adult education.


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