By their very nature, ideas contrary to established thoughts and practices go beyond the ordinary or expected. They tend to encourage freethinking and produce fresher and more original points of view. But they also seem to defy conventional wisdom and spark suspicion and fear.
With all the companies that I have owned over the years, I have never refused to listen to a contrary idea. Why? Because contrary ideas spawn innovation, organizational effectiveness, and enhanced profitability.
When a team member or employee of mine offered a contrary idea with no analysis, I encouraged and insisted on some sort of prove-up. This always separated the “shoot from the hip” idea from the concept that presented a real opportunity for change.
A boss, manager, supervisor, team leader, etc. who refuses to listen to contrary ideas often stifles intellectual creativity—his own and that of the people he leads. Consider the adage, “If the two of us agree all the time, one of us is unnecessary.” When I was the boss, the last thing I needed around me was a bunch of “yes” men or women.
When I talk about contrary ideas, I don’t mean simply voicing an opposing opinion. It’s not unusual for opinion to be nothing more than whining or jealousy. What I mean is imagining new methods of using what already exists to solve a problem in a unique way.
It’s true. You run the risk of ridicule or rejection when putting forth ideas that counter leadership’s conventional way of thinking. Many leaders and managers aren’t comfortable hearing that the way they’ve always done things isn’t necessarily the best way to do them.
Therefore, I recommend that you introduce contrary ideas to your company’s leadership only if the idea can do the following.
1. Make More Money
If your idea can increase sales, gain more customers, or improve profitability, I suspect you will get little opposition. No matter how far-fetched your idea seems, if it can make more money for your company, at the least, you will gain a listening ear.
2. Save More Money
Because increased expenses can squeeze an organization’s profitability, controlling costs is more important than ever. Helping your company’s bottom line grow by offering unique ways to reduce costs positions both you and your company for future success.
3. Increase Operational Effectiveness
If your idea can reduce the stress or pressure on the organization or improve operational effectiveness in any way, go for it! Your contribution to the effectiveness and productivity of your organization will help set you up for increased recognition…and compensation.
4. Improve Talent or Personal Development
In an effort to control expenses, many companies make the mistake of cutting training or personal development. This is never a good idea. Motivated and well-trained employees comprise the lifeblood of an organization. They contribute to the organization’s success and help advance its interests and reputation.
Allow yourself to break free of the constraints that limit your thinking. When you do, you will deliver more value to your organization…and you will increase your personal value.
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