If you hang around for as long as I have, you will notice how big ideas come and go, and come again. Like us, they are all just passing through.
However, for me this provides so much of the joy in my work. I love finding the ideas that inspired others. I love relishing how those ideas came to life in the hands and hearts of those who found their needs could be met through their own creative, collaborative and kind explorations. What a privilege it is for me to see, hear and understand those moments for them.
In contrast, I have often wondered why I have such a reluctance to embrace the next new “system” or “model” or “framework” that is paraded in front of us like a small-town carnival float. Then one day the penny dropped. It was not the idea that I found clunky or objectionable, but it was the energy invested in how to make money from the idea that left me disinclined to follow all the plastic slogans, flashing light bulbs and tannoyed claims.
To make money from an idea, it seems it has to be weaponised with acronyms, plastered in “roadmaps” and dressed up as a programme or program (because the US spelling is so much more, you know, compelling). An idea set adrift in a sea full of pirate resellers, with no care for a destination, just wanting the money for nothing, only the clicks are free.
The search for so called best practices can seem like this too. An idea that was special and important, born of relevancy, context and specific application, and loved by those who knew it first, but then death marched relentlessly across an organisation by a gang of project evangelists. Of course, shared best practices can have value too, but if they promote group thinking, and result in cliché laden communications dripping with confected buzzword slurry, we rip up more than quantities of cash.
In such situations hubris can take hold and it is hard for some leaders to admit they have marched down the wrong road. At worst, sadly, there is no reflection and turning back. Instead it is more likely that they will insist on carrying on relentlessly, knowing that their only refuge is at the end when they can claim that the failure is not theirs, but of colleagues who were not committed enough or who had not cared enough. Strategy reduced to a hostage video in the hands of ambitious but clueless change-makers.
My reflection is that the lasting positive difference we make is not to force-feed change on our colleagues, especially when it is fanned by vanity or the crushing need to keep up appearances. Instead when we take time to reflect and to properly understand our own intimate relationship with our everyday realities, I know there will be extraordinary ideas to be found to support our development and growth.
Successful leadership is always a collective success, albeit one that must be facilitated and mentored; it is never imposed. In contrast failure will often lie at the door of individuals who spend more time defending preconceived thinking than listening, and who treat challenge as a personal affront rather than an opportunity to reflect, learn and grow.
The next great idea could be in the consultant’s expensive playbook, but in my experience it is more likely to be found in the wisdom of your team. All that glisters is not sold.
Take care. Paul xx