With a new year ahead of us, every business is hoping to drum out the next big thing. One that will go viral, reach new markets, and keep them a step ahead of their competitors. Executives are poised, ready, and anxious to make a splash in the marketplace. All that's missing? A big idea. 

If only it were that simple. Leaders are always looking for ways to get the best from their team. Despite recruiting top creative talent, coming up with the latest and greatest always boils down to one thing: culture. 

In order for ideas to flow freely, the environment has to be equally as flexible. It takes much more than bean bag chairs and nap pods to bring out the best in our staff. It takes a culture that welcomes every idea (no matter how ridiculous it may be) without judgment or ego. 

From the outside, it may seem like you've ticked every box in this department. However, it just takes one sentence to ruin ideation. The next time you're in a brainstorm meeting, watch how long it takes until someone says, "We've tried that."

Here's the deal: statements like this are killing your next big idea. So are sentences like, "In my experience" or "In my previous role". These phrases transition and shift the conversation from positive to deflated. They're game changers, and not in a good way. 

While someone's work experience may have brought them to this point, it shouldn't rule out any ideas on the table simply because it didn't work out for them before. Our culture, expectations, and work pace have changed dramatically. What failed even a year ago could hit the mark today. All it may take is an open mind and a better plan.

If you really want to find that next big idea, try saying this at your next brainstorm meeting instead: 

1. "Here's what we did wrong."

We tend to think that admitting our past mistakes would tamper our reputation, but in reality it's the exact opposite. As leaders, it's important to be the example. The best life lessons often stem out of mistakes, so use your past experience as a way to grow the current idea, rather than break it down. 

2. "Let's build on this."

The key to encouraging your staff to keep churning out new ideas is to never shut down a bad one, no matter how cringe-worthy it may be. You also don't want to ignore what they've said, hoping they'll 'get the hint'. This will just lead to feelings of insecurity, preventing them from putting forth any further ideas out of fear and scrutiny. 

Instead, invite the team to build on what's being presented. It may have enough inspiration to spark a stronger concept. 

3. "What inspired this idea?"

Sometimes rewinding to the beginning is the best way to find your end. That's why asking about the thought process that went in to the idea can create better clarity for the whole team. 

Scaling back to the root could actually set the foundation for a stronger pitch. We often feel pressured to make a splash. As a result, too many bells and whistles could end up clouding what was potentially a really great idea. Draw back to the thought process and see if you can build from there.  

Published on: Jan 12, 2018