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Karin And David’s Leadership Articles

Do you have a plan to make the best ideas work?

Joe has a new idea. The idea isn’t perfect, but with a tweak or two, it just might solve that big problem that’s driving everyone nuts.

What does Joe do next?

If Joe is like half of the people in our research, you’ll never hear about it because he assumes no one will do anything with it.

Good ideas breed more good ideas. When people see a clear path from idea sharing to implementation, they’ll be much more likely to speak up.

On your team, how easy is it for people to bring forward their best ideas?

A Quick “Make the Best Ideas Work” Process Check

How would Joe’s idea flow on your team?

Take a minute to think about this “idea path.”

How does Joe know it’s an idea with potential? Have you defined criteria for what a great idea will do for your customers or the team? If not, that’s worth some brainstorming at your next team meeting.

Once Joe determines that his idea is worth sharing, what would he do next? Would he:

  • Talk to someone
  • Fill out a card
  • Enter it in a database
  • Schedule a meeting
  • Something else?

Then what?

We invite you to write down each step Joe would take – including other people’s activity necessary to implement the idea. Who would need to authorize it? What levels of approval do different ideas require? How long would each step take?

Be honest with how things work in your organization (not how you’d like them to work).

As you review the process you just outlined, ask the following questions:

  • Do you have a coherent plan or are there gaps you can address?
  • How long would it take from the time Joe shared his idea to the time a pilot project happened?
  • What feedback loops are in place to help Joe improve the idea and make it viable?
  • As the revised idea rolls out, would Joe stay involved? If so, how?
  • How would you recognize Joe and thank him in a meaningful way?

As a leadership team (or by yourself if you’ve done this one alone), review your answers to the last four questions and ask yourself: If you were a front-line team member, would it be worth your time and energy to think of solutions and new ideas (much less to share them)?

If your answer is “No”, where can you make changes to improve the process, remove barriers, and increase recognition?

If your answer is “Yes,” but ideas aren’t moving to implementation, ask your team to do this exercise. It’s a great way to check for understanding to see if they’ve got the process and know what to do.

As you review their answers, look for these common barriers to action. Do they:

  • Know what successful ideas look like?
  • Know what to do with an idea that might work, but isn’t perfect?
  • Have a realistic understanding of the timeframe involved?
  • Understand why they need certain approvals?

Your Idea Path

Teams that consistently improve don’t leave the creativity to chance. They have an intentional plan to find good ideas, test, refine, share, and encourage problem-solving.

You can download this free Idea Path pdf to help you, your colleagues, and your team think through how you help ideas move from concept to action.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you – what is your best practice to make your team’s best ideas work?


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Karin Hurt And David Dye author photo

Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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