Why do we struggle to have great ideas?

Why do we struggle to have great ideas?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As leaders and managers, we’re often expected to have the brilliant insight and action plans that will help our people and organisations turn over a new leaf. But in the midst of all the busy-ness of business, it’s easy to get stuck in a “same old, same old” thinking rut.

Why we struggle to have great ideas

I’ve been playing in the continuous improvement space for many years now. I work with teams and organisations that want to build a culture of ongoing development and improvement. One barrier that comes up frequently is that teams and individuals struggle to identify areas that could be improved. We get stuck, unable to generate more than a couple of timid options, which will make almost no difference to the challenge we’re trying to tackle.

There are several reasons for this:

  • No one has ever asked us and/or we’re out of practice at generating ideas
  • We don’t feel like they have permission to speak up
  • We’re too busy and stressed to be able to think beyond our immediate survival
  • We don’t want to stray too far from the “norm”
  • There’s a cultural or leadership issue whereby having ideas is a punishable offence (it sounds extreme, but it is more common than you might think!)

The first issue is simply a matter of skill-building, and in this series, I’m going to provide you with a series of techniques and approaches that will help you and your team re-build your idea-generating muscles. The remaining issues are structural and cultural. While they can be addressed, they’ll take some more time, energy and leadership commitment than the first. I’ll tackle them in a future series.

Introducing: the “How to have great ideas” series

This post is the first in the series titled “How to have great ideas”. In the coming weeks, I’ll share nine proven strategies for developing awesome ideas.

Anyone can use these strategies to tackle any challenge, no matter how big or small. Most of them can be put in place right away, without anything more than time, effort and a willingness to try a different approach.

"Ideas are nice, but I need results!"

I get it – there’s no time to waste in thinking, you need results, and you need them fast. You’ve had an idea and you want to get started right away.

But there’s nothing worse that busying yourself with activties that won’t deliver the results you want, or worse, actually prevent you from achieving your desired results!

I’m currently writing a follow-up series where you’ll learn how to select the right ideas and turn them into effective actions that deliver superb results. But in the meantime, let’s get our thinking in order, so that we’ve got great ideas to work with when it’s time for action.

Getting out of the pressure cooker

Being a leader or manager is a busy job. There are so many different demands competing for your time and attention. You’ve got a to-do list that’s a mile long, reports to write, staffing issues to sort and KPIs to achieve. And now your boss expects you to come up with a brilliant idea that will make everything better? Eek – it feels like being locked inside a pressure cooker with the heat turned all the way up!

Sadly, the stress and pressure that are so common in our business culture are all but guaranteed to prevent you from being able to think creatively, right when you need it most.

But, I’m here with some good news – finding great ideas doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming or stressful. The simple strategies I share in this series will help you get out of that pressure cooker so you can wield your wisdom, harvest from the hive-mind, and springboard into success.

You can use these strategies to tackle any challenge that you’re facing, large or small. It helps if you have some “fellow travellers” who will go on the journey with you – that could be your work team, your family or friends, a club you’re involved with – any group of people who are committed to a shared cause and open to learning.

A request from me before we begin

I will make one firm request of you before we begin: if any of your ideas sails close to the wind of what is legal, ethical or moral, please kill that idea immediately. If it could risk your reputation or land you with a fine or conviction, it’s not a great idea!

Reputations take years to build but can be crushed in seconds, especially in our hyper-connected world. Don’t sell out your future for the sake of a short-term target.

Strategy #1 – coming soon!

Over the next nine weeks, I’ll share each strategy for generating great ideas here, with links on my socials (Facebook and LinkedIn). I’d love for you to join me on the journey of exploring proven, practical strategies that will turn you into an idea powerhouse!

Sign up to my newsletter

If you’re keen to get these strategies and other great content delivered right to your inbox, sign up to my newsletter.

Let's keep in touch! You can unsubscribe at any time, but I'll be working hard to provide such great content that you'll never want to leave!

Read our privacy policy for more info.

No spam, ever!

I am 100% against spam – I hate receiving it, and I will never send it.

I promise I’ll never sell your email address, and I commit to sending only the highest-quality, most relevant content that I believe adds value.

"Spam" with a red circle and line
Posted by Daria Williamson, 0 comments
Kindness: a better business strategy

Kindness: a better business strategy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Kindness. It’s a scorned, if not outright rejected concept in business – it’s too soft, too weak. We can’t be kind, because to be in business is to be tough, competitive, strong. Logic and rationality rule the roost. We don’t do feelings or soft, fluffy stuff. We’re here to do the serious stuff of business; please leave your kindness at the door.

Kindness isn't weakness

But kindness isn’t a soft, fluffy feeling – it’s a philosophy that holds individual human dignity as the ultimate value. It sees that dignity as more important than power games, point-scoring, and numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s much, much harder than the usual “hard-headed” business approach. And it is actually a solid business strategy for getting the best out of your people, making sure you have the right people on your team, and serving your customers well.

And it isn’t weakness, not by any means. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do, in business and life, is to have courageous conversations that put everything on the line. Whether that’s with an under-performing employee, a high-potential team member, or someone who just isn’t fitting in, kindness can help individuals and organisations to flourish. Brené Brown has written excellently on the subject of “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” I highly recommend her book Dare to Lead; it’s on regular rotation in my reading list.

Kind honesty

Being kindly honest with someone is really, really hard. It can feel like we’re being downright cruel when we are in the middle of that conversation and see the pain and disappointment in the other person’s eyes. Of course, we need to give the feedback with empathy and compassion, but we can’t just avoid having the conversation because we don’t like how it will make us feel.

Allowing someone to fail by not giving clear feedback on expectations and performance is a deep unkindness. No one wants to realise that other people think we are incompetent, a burden, or dragging others down, but no one had the guts to tell us we weren’t meeting the mark. This is the Golden Rule at work: how we want to be treated is how we should treat others.

Kind challenges

Unkindness isn’t just about avoiding tough conversations with underperformers; it’s also unkind not to challenge your star employees. We might worry that if we let them spread their wings, they’ll fly away from us, or that other employees will act up out of jealousy (requiring their own courageous conversations).

But bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator is unkind to those who want to excel and it’s unkind to your customers and industry too. Who knows what great improvements a high-potential employee could create, if you allowed them to follow their instincts, supported them with a budget, permission to experiment, make mistakes and discover new approaches, and surrounded them with people who will challenge, coach, and inspire them?

Kind exits

Sometimes, kindness is allowing, even encouraging, someone to leave a role or organisation that doesn’t “fit” them. If you can’t provide them with conditions to flourish, why not allow them to look for a place that can? Why would you want to keep someone around who isn’t enjoying working in your team or organisation? Trying to stay below an arbitrary turnover target or avoid hard questions about why you let a good employee leave aren’t good reasons to try to hold someone back in a place where they’re miserable.

Who knows what could happen if you give someone your blessing to find a new home for their talents? It’s a very small world: you might encounter them again in the future, as an employee, boss, or customer. Wouldn’t it be great to know you left things on good terms? Or maybe they’ll go on to revolutionise the industry, or they’ll remember the good boss who helped them find a path that better suited them, and will do the same for others? That’s how kindness multiplies.

Kindness to self

And while we’re talking about kindness, let’s be kind to ourselves too. Most of us feel like we’re making things up as we go – and we regularly face new situations (remember Alert Level 4 lockdown, anyone?!). It’s OK not to know the answers. And it’s even more OK to admit that to your team, your colleagues and your boss – people usually appreciate honesty. (And if you’re working with people who aren’t OK with you not knowing the all the answers, every time, then you might want to find a kinder place to work!)

How will you apply kindness today?

It’s all well and good to read about how kindness can help us. But words on a screen don’t change the world – taking action does!

Commit to a single act of kindness today. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering – when a sculptor wants to break off a section of rock, they don’t aim one mighty blow, but deliver a series of gentle taps in just the right place. The same goes for kindness – many, small acts of deliberate kindness will nudge your team, your organisation and the world in the desired direction. All you have to do is start.

Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, Organisational Culture, Workplace, 0 comments
What is organisational culture, why does it matter, and how can we build a great culture?

What is organisational culture, why does it matter, and how can we build a great culture?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Organisational culture has been a “buzzphrase” for longer than I can remember. It’s the topic of vast numbers of books, 15 TED talks (when I last checked), and innumerable blog-posts (to which I am adding another with this!).

But what is it, exactly? And why is it so important? And how do we create a great one? Thanks for asking! Let’s dive into those questions.

Continue reading →

Posted by Daria Williamson in Organisational Culture, 2 comments