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Shiny Object v. Real Opportunity

Have you ever had that boss who seems to come up with an idea a minute? Maybe it even felt more like 10 ideas a minute?

It appeared as though they had no regard for what it takes to actually bring an idea to reality.

“I think we should go to the moon!” they said with unbridled energy. Very likely hoping that you and your colleagues also felt such support of the idea du jour.

Immediately your CFO starts thinking to herself, “ok, how will we fund this new initiative?” The CDO ponders how to balance this new idea (read: a new, additional need) against the annual fund, major gift, and always-out-there planned giving strategies. The Marketing team is sweating profusely as they wrap their head around what it means to launch brand, PR, social media and stakeholder comms, not to mention all of the creative meetings to flesh out this week’s idea.

Phew, take a breath. We’re only talking hypotheticals!

A moment of confession as you regain your composure: I’ve been the guilty-as-charged, idea-a-minute boss. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a boss who never met an idea they didn’t like.

Whether you’re the CEO, a department leader, a committed board member, or an individual contributor, consider these three tips to foster ideation and innovation while respecting the reality of birthing new ideas:

  • Embrace organized ideation: If you’re an idea person, always coming up with new ideas and spotting opportunities, consider starting a list or parking lot to house your ideas. Then, revisit them each morning, every week, or during the annual budgeting process. (Block off recurring time on your calendar dedicated to revisiting those ideas.) Rank those ideas by priority, urgency, cost or any other criteria. And then, after a period of distillation, consider sharing them with your team.

  • Time is your friend: Now, if you struggle with having enough ideas or creating innovation moments, carve out time each week, month or quarter to do exactly that. And...protect that creative time like your business depends on it (it just may!). Few things in life are constants (death and taxes come to mind), but the onward ticking of time surely ranks at the top. Working early buys you time to more wholly flesh out and flush out your ideas without deadlines or limits impeding your progress.

  • All about the shoes: Put yourself in the shoes of others at your organization. How will your CDO react and what would they need to understand how your idea really does make good sense? Same thinking for your CMO, board chair, directors, managers, volunteers, et al. Anticipate the hive-inducing reactions that follow from members of your team, and be prepared to not only address their concerns, but to have solutions already at-hand.

Put yourself in the shoes of those who you lead. Employ empathy. Then repeat. Again and again.

Sprinkling-in intentionality and mindfulness to your idea lifecycle garners better results and better fulfilled colleagues.

Cape Fletcher Associates

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