Will You Protect Your Newborn?

My nephew Lane is almost four months old.  Like most parents, my sister and her husband shower their baby with attention, love, and support.  If they expected him to be fully developed and self-sustaining the day he was born, protective services would swarm in and cart them off to the loony bin.  Luckily, they feed, clothe, and nurture Lane to help him develop and reach his full potential.

Makes sense for newborns.  So why don’t we do the same with new ideas?

It would be crazy to expect newborn children to be fully developed, yet we expect the smallest morsel of an idea to be fully baked at inception.  If someone shares an idea that isn’t bullet-proof, we pounce on them with fierce criticism.  The nerve of sharing an idea that isn’t fully defensible for the next 11 years!

Since the general expectation is that all ideas must be ready for primetime, most of us hold back our best thinking for the fear of being scolded.  It’s safer to keep your mouth shut than to risk your idea being shot down by judgmental bosses, teachers, co-workers, parents, or bureaucrats.  So you keep your ideas to yourself, and in turn do a tremendous disservice to those around you.

Creativity, imagination, and original thought have become the currency of success.  Restricting the free flow of ideas in your organization is like starving a baby of food and water – the results are devastating.

Newborn ideas need to be protected and nurtured in the same way a mother cares for her baby.  Early ideas are fragile, requiring care and feeding before they’re ready to stand on their own.   Before eviscerating original thoughts, give them time to breathe and flourish.

Grant yourself and your colleagues permission to share raw, undeveloped ideas. An early idea spark can take the form of an insight, observation, question, frustration or new connection.  Give these newborn ideas oxygen and time to develop, and you’ll significantly drive creativity and innovation in your organization.

Lane will get (at least) 18 years of protection and support before having to thrive on his own.  Make sure you are giving your new ideas enough time to take root instead of exterminating them prematurely.