Killing the good ideas to succeed

Have you ever had a really good idea, one that you knew was a winner, killed by your boss? Congratulations. You may have had one smart boss. She probably did the company a favour – and not because your idea was bad, it was really, really good. Seriously. In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review site on the subject, Julia Kirby paraphrased Apple’s Steve Jobs as saying, “killing bad ideas isn’t that hard … what is really hard – and a hallmark of great companies – is killing good ideas.”

It got me wondering why; why do so many good ideas go nowhere? After reading Ms.Kirby’s blog post, I realized it was because we weren’t killing enough of them.

When a company doesn’t kill some of those good ideas along with the bad ones, they end up taking on too much. Focus gets blurred, and execution fails.

The tricky part is how to do it. How do you choose which good ideas to kill?

Leave the ego at the door

The task of plucking the right ideas from a pool of many becomes particularly tricky when you are not only the one deciding which ideas get approved, but also a contributor of some of the competitors. We all have a natural bias to think our ideas are the great ones. We’ve done a great job of preselling ourselves. It is so important¬†to be careful to remove the ego from the process and have a way of objectively evaluating each idea. Otherwise it becomes someone’s pet project list, and that drives people out the door.

Make it transparent

Transparency is key. Make sure everyone knows what you are trying to achieve (presumably, these are your core business objectives)¬†and how you will determine the best ways to do it. That’s not to say that, as a leader, you can’t occasionally buck convention and go with intuition, but you better be able to explain how you made that leap, and if it fails, take responsibility.

It’s also key to help people understand that you do kill good ideas, and why you do it. Understanding that their idea wasn’t scuttled because it was bad can help cushion the blow in many cases.

I am going to try this out. I have high hopes it will help at home as well as work; maybe getting a few projects off the list will help me to get some others done, finally.

How about you? What good ideas can you kill today?


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