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Do You Mix Your Ideas With Your Ego?

Want to be a great idea person? Don’t let your ideas get mixed up with your ego. I can always tell a novice in a brainstorming session. They’re the ones that keep trying to defend their ideas long after the rest of the group has moved on. They also get their feelings hurt easily – especially when
their idea gets rejected.

I love the quote from an long time advertising man: “Having ideas is like shaving – if you don’t do it every day, you’re a bum.” Younger creative people put way too much stock in individual ideas. But the truth is, the secret to having great ideas is having a lot of ideas. In a brainstorming session, believe in your ideas, but respect and follow the flow of the group. If the group rejects the idea, keep in mind that it could be for a multitude of reasons – budget, time schedule, resources, and more. It may be a good idea, but not a good idea right now.

When you keep arguing for and defending your idea long after it’s been passed over, you only expose your inexperience, risk antagonizing the rest of the group, and hurting the momentum.

The older and more experienced I’ve become, I realize that in my lifetime, I’ve burned through a million ideas. A few great ones, many good ones, and a whole lot of stinkers. At Hollywood parties, I’ll occasionally meet people who call themselves “idea people,” and it’s really hard to keep from laughing. Keep your eye on those guys. They’re the ones who never actually work.

The really valuable people out there are the ones that can make ideas happen. They not only have good ideas, but they have the skill to craft them into scripts, create compelling stories, produce programs, write books and more. People who can turn ideas into reality are the ones that get paid, and they often get paid well.

So the next time you participate in a brainstorming session, or just kick a few ideas around at the office, remember to check your ego at the door. Creative meetings are not about you. They’re about generating ideas for a specific purpose. When your idea doesn’t get applause, they’re not rejecting you. There’s no shame in coming up empty in those meetings. Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn’t.

But the worst thing that can happen is when good ideas get diverted because the energy of the group is being spent on soothing one person’s hurt feelings, or listening to an desperate defense of a bad idea.

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3 Comments

  1. As a person who has been in an organization with a lot of young “idea people” I agree completely with you Phil. If people could get to an understanding that it’s not about your solution, it’s about the RIGHT solution they will get farther and so will the organization. 

    Check your ego at the door and work together towards something that has a chance to be something special.

    To re-iterate another thing you said, the older I get and have a chance to look back I too have had a few great ideas, some pretty good ideas, and a lot of bad ones, but the more ideas and experience you have to draw on the more valuable you are to an organization and yourself.

  2. Phil, you hit on a very important point somewhere in the middle of your comments: is this idea practical? Can the person, group or company make this happen? Or is this a "pie in the sky" idea that'll never come to fruition? This is a pragmatic way to go, and the older I get and the more projects get added to my resume' and more experience gets aded to my brain cells, the more I start breaking down a pitched idea into steps to achieve the idea. Can this idea really happen? If not, why not? If so, how do we get it going? The danger is that it's also important to dream BIG, dream BOLD. Shoot for the stars, but be willing to be satisfied by having only landed on the Moon. At least your rocket ship took off. Most people never get off the launching pad. The other key issue not addressed is whether an organization is OPEN to ideas from their staff and people. Does your group and its leadership encourage or discourage ideas? Does every idea have to be run by the boss? This often leaves a stranglehold on the creative, idea process. Having just left a ministry that was content doing their tv show exactly the same for the past 12 years, I'd say to leaders out there: ENCOURAGE ideas. Don't stay in a rut forever. I used to have a Friday staff mtg where our team could talk about anything. Got a crazy idea? Go for it. It was a free flowing brainstorming session. Everyone participated, veen the P.A. Out of these mtgs the ideas got refined (like gold) and we'd come away with 1 or 2 new ideas (even small ones) that we'd engage and move forward with. Not everything worked. But at least we weren't inert. Encourage your people to THINK and DREAM. Walt Disney once said: "I use the whole plant for ideas. If the janitor has a good idea, I'll use it."

  3. You have grown in this industry that is why you can talk like this! Instead of speaking from a vantage of strength speak from a perspective of “I was once there” and that way you will get more done and help the other person “the newbie” get through. God is far more experienced than any of us and He doesn’t brag about it. How many times did God have to get through us before we finally saw it His way? And yet He made us feel special all the same. Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Knowledge puffs up but love builds.

    Go down if you want to go up; Die if you want to live; Be tough on life before it’s tough on you; Prepare to suffer; Make pleasure a transition not an address; Complacency is a convenient killer; Truth is a bitter pill that leaves a sweet aftertaste.

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