Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

How to make a good idea great

As a jiu-jitsu (kudos to carolinabigblue) to How to Kill an Idea ...

Rooney wisely points out there are a lot more raw ideas than good ones. That is because the context to an idea is key: all ideas are conceived in the context of some problem, challenge or opportunity space. So if you pose an idea to a domain expert, and the idea is weak (read, bad), you tend to find it runs aground. Quickly.

To successfully come up with good ideas, then, is not about finding a magic bullet. It is about understanding your problem space (context) and generating one or more ideas that effectively address that space. Conversely, when presented with an idea where you have greater contextual awareness than the idea's proponent, killing ideas simply because they are weak (again, bad) can actually diminish creative output, rather than encourage it.

Yes, Virginia, your value rises and falls on your delivery.

When asked how to maintain good behavior, teachers said it requires a 4:1 ratio of praise to criticism. To change behavior, they said, requires a ratio of 8:1. (When asked to assess their own praise-to-criticism ratio in the classroom, the ratio was inverted: 1:4.)

Praise First* is a tool to enhance convergent thinking (selecting and strengthing ideas from raw to refined). Use this after a brainstorming session when a number of ideas have been discussed and you are now beginning to evaluate the ones that stand out the most.

  • Positives - What are the good things about this idea? What about it works, sparkles, or stands head and shoulders over other ideas? Why is it a good idea?

  • Potential - Where could we go with this idea? How might it open up other opportunities? What are some ways we might be able to build on its promise?

  • Concerns - What holds this idea back? What about it needs to be strengthened to be a solid or irresistable solution?

    Overcoming Concerns - How do we address concerns about the idea in order to implement it?
Try affirming someone's idea before you assess it. See if, in doing so, you show affirmation of the person as well - which is what they were really seeking from you in the first place.

* Praise First (aka, PPCO) is based on research by Roger Firestien, Jonathan Vehar and Blair Miller



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