Pride of Idea Ownership

I’ve had this on my list to write about for a while, just didn’t have a great example until this week. It took me a while to learn, but a key lesson for me is that I’ve never had an idea that wasn’t made better by involving other people that wanted to make the idea succeed. That can be a hard first step, moving away from “my” idea to “our” idea, even if you really did come up with some really great concept.

Practically (you might say politically), involving others goes beyond just making the idea better, it also increases the number of people that will support it because they now have a sense of ownership. Don’t discount the human factor!

But the next level is harder still, letting go of your investment in an idea if a better idea comes along from someone else. You put a lot of effort into something and it’s human nature to want your idea to win, even if it’s not the best idea on the table.

I was thinking about this because last week I spent the better part of 4 days thinking about, researching, and discussing a plan for a project. I solicited early ideas, involved a small team in reviewing and providing feedback, and then circulated revisions for further comment. I think it’s a good plan. It’s one of two approaches being considered, and the twist is that I’ll be part of the team that votes on whether to go with my plan or the other plan.

I like my plan and think it will work, but will it be the best plan? Will I be able to step past 4 days of revisions and let it go if the other plan turns out to be better (of course, defining better is not easy either).

One thing that helps me – though it’s not a perfect solution – is that I like to win, and winning requires using the best ideas no matter where they came from. One hopes that the work wasn’t a total waste of course. Just having a contrast is often important when making a decision, and often you’ll see the final plan containing elements from all the proposals.

Hard lessons. Even when learned, hard to apply.