9. Great Ideas Come From Anywhere in the Organisation

People who are close to a problem usually have the best ideas about how to solve it

Principle 8 (Collaborative communities achieve more than individuals) shows why Agile Leaders should create collaborative communities and highlights trust as the essential ingredient. Principle 9 (Great ideas come from anywhere in the organisation) takes this one stage further and asks leaders to trust their people to come up with creative solutions to the problems they are facing.

Yet one of the most pervasive myths found in organisations is that the people at the top are the only ones that can come up with the best ideas. However, many of the C-suite executives are often too far removed from the reality of day-to-day life in the organisation to know what their people have to contend with.

This principle is a call for Agile Leaders to engage all their colleagues when seeking creative solutions to organisational challenges.

Agile Leader allow themselves to be open to the influence and ideas of others, regardless of their status or position. To this end, the Agile Leader stops, listens and gives time to really hear the thoughts and ideas for improvement from their colleagues. Even if some ideas are not used, the Agile Leader encourages a continuous flow of creativity by helping people to understand which ideas were useful and which were not.

Unwillingness to adopt ideas because they originate from others

The reality of organisational life is such that many ideas from the brightest people go to waste because they are not heard or their ideas are ignored. Individuals can become frustrated when they believe their leaders ignore or dismiss their ideas. This situation is exacerbated when external consultants are brought in to help the organisation and recommend these same ideas that are then taken on board.

“42% of employees have no idea where to submit an idea when it comes to them. And 80% have never been rewarded for a good idea they put forward.” P&MM Motivation website.

This attitude and behaviour does little to build confidence and morale in colleagues and often creates the opposite effect. People are unlikely to continue to give their best thinking if ideas are not taken seriously or are rejected because they came from a source other than a director or senior manager.

The importance of feedback and reward

To encourage feedback and the generation of ideas, the Agile Leader needs to create an environment of trust and collaboration (Principle 8) as a foundation. The ability of all members of a team to input their ideas and to contribute to improved performance will be enhanced if the leader is seen to promote open and honest feedback (in both directions, per Principle 3); this can be further enhanced through recognition and reward schemes that praise publicly the contributions made by any member of the organisation

Engage colleagues and build more value in the organisation

So how does the Agile Leader create an environment where ideas are generated and acknowledged from all parts of the organisation?

The diagram here shows the Team Learning Cycle from the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. This model builds on an approach called Action Learning3 which is easy to apply to any organisation and follows some simple rules.

Agile Leaders can encourage several of these types of learning groups across the organisation in order to facilitate and promote learning. When well facilitated, these groups become a fun and inspiring way to help individuals develop and to start to shift the culture of an organisation.

Action Step:

Watch this brief five minute video from Peter Senge on the Fifth Discipline

Look at this cutting edge paper from Robert Kegan that takes the principle of ‘great ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation’ much further. The ‘Deliberately Developmental Organisation’ as Kegan puts it fully recognises the potential of ALL in the organisation, not just those in a leadership role.

Click on the image below to download our quick reference guide.

This learning pathway is now complete. Congratulations!