When The Recipe Looks Delicious, Why Change The Ingredients?

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Michael O. Johnston

Hi All,

I haven’t blogged for awhile now due to my workload that I have had, so now that I have a few minutes to spare I thought I better get back into it (as I enjoy sharing my thoughts and ideas).

So, without further ado my blog this week is about employees who propose newly discovered ideas to their organization (be it nonprofit, for profit, or government) and the organization having the feeling that they need to tailor it and make it their own. The problem that I see with this is that by changing the platform of an idea you could ruin it altogether, I understand that tailoring can sometimes be good especially if the idea doesn’t perfectly match your organization, but what if the idea presented does not need any modifying done to it?

Should you make something your own even if its “good” in its natural state?

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Pam Broviak

In answering this, I tried to look at it as an idea that would be proposed in my organization which is a city. If I come up with an idea, I run it by the mayor then if he finds merit in it, we run it by the other staff (including the attorney) and then by the council. Because there are so many people involved and so many people potentially affected by an idea, everyone should weigh in on it.

If the idea does truly reflect the desired consensual outcome and if it truly represents the values and culture we have established as an organization, then rarely will it be changed along the way. But I think that it is difficult for one person to accurately pull all that together on their own with no input from others.

For me, I enjoy assessing a problem, coming up with a solution, and then watching as other members of “the team” add to it and change it so that it truly fits for our whole community. A great idea gets even better when everyone buys into it, adds their part, adopts it, and then works to implement it.

As a sidenote, there is an online community, Thinkbalm, that has set up a method of vetting ideas. Members of Thinkbalm can post an idea, then others in the community comment and talk about it, offering their input. I think it is a great way to hone your “idea-making,” collaboration, and assessment skills.

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Avatar Image GeekChick

I just want to LOL, because getting the Forest Service to consider any new idea is a joke. Actually, to be fair, it’s getting better — but in my early years the concept of a user-friendly email address for recreation inquiries was met with complete resistance. “We can’t do THAT! We have to follow this archaic protocol!” And the idea of using a model already created by someone else was heresy. The tweaking-to-make our own then became sort of a transition model, and now I see more openness to just flat-out adopting things. I think more people are seeing the writing on the wall — we don’t have the money or the staff, so why reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to?

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Don Jacobson

I guess this partly depends on the complexity and impact of idea you are proposing. If the change will mainly impact your immediate work unit, it shouldn’t be too hard to get buy-in to at least experiment with the new idea. But when it’s a Big Idea that significantly impacts your organization and/or customers, you would not usually be well-served by adopting an off-the-shelf solution without consulting widely.

It should not be all about who gets the credit for the idea. It should be about making the best decision and making the organization stronger and/or more effective. Gathering diverse perspectives as part of a well-managed vetting process can help ensure you’re not going to be taking undue risks with the taxpayers money. (Don’t get me wrong–I’m not advocating risk averse behaviors. But we do have to be responsible with the taxpayers money.)

The other advantage of getting more perspectives on the new idea is that if people have had some input into the decision, they own it. That’s key to getting things implemented. Let’s face it, when you have a new idea, you are the one most excited about getting it implemented. But any Big Idea requires a lot of people to implement. It’s in your interest that others care about it and feel some ownership or else the actual implementation will fall flat. As the late Adm. Hyman Rickover said,

“Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous impatience. Once implemented they can be easily overturned or subverted through apathy or lack of follow-up, so a continuous effort is required.”
— Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

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