A former co-worker of mine had the ugliest pair of shoes I had ever seen. It looked like he was trying to go bionic but could only afford to start with his feet. I asked him polite questions about his shoes, and he raved about how comfortable they were. He told me that he bought a pair one day and ran a mini-marathon in them the next.
As I said, I was making polite conversation only. I had no intention of doing anything with that information. Ever. Wearing something that ugly was just inviting strangers to make conversation with you. If I wanted weirdos to approach me, I could pin a dead parrot to my shoulder and wear an eye patch.
As I said, I had no intention of doing anything with my co-worker’s information about his ugly shoes. Until a year later. When I sprained my ankle. On a business trip in New Mexico. After a few phone calls, I found that these shoes were not only sold in New Mexico, but Z-Coil, the home of the company, was based in Albuquerque. “I’ll just go look, maybe try a pair on, and see it it makes the pain more bearable,” I told myself. Unfortunately for me, the shoes supported my weight so fully and removed the pain so completely that I bought a pair.
Have you ever dismissed out of hand an idea at work because it was stupid? I have. Lots of times. But maybe those ideas weren’t stupid, maybe I just failed to see the connection to how those ideas might be a million-dollar lottery ticket someone handed me that I was too lazy to scratch off. Or perhaps the ideas really were stupid…at the time. More than once I’ve been amazed by ideas that I dismissed at the time only to find them come full circle and into fruition at a later date. Had I jumped on them earlier, maybe I could have helped save the company money or found a unique way to serve our customers.
Do you brush off input as inconsequential only to wish later that you had listened?
Try two things. Listen to every idea as if it has unlimited potential. Ask follow up questions. Test your understanding. Figure out if there is a use for that idea today or in the near future. If so, run with it and give the person who came up with the idea credit.
If you don’t see the potential to use that idea today, put the idea in a tickler file along with your notes. A tickler file is a paper or electronic file where you store ideas you wish to review on a regular basis to see if the time is right to put them into action.
Before you discard an idea, make sure it’s the idea that is stupid and not just your limited perspective at the moment. Some ideas are like wine, and they take time to mature.
Today I have 3 pairs of those stupid, ugly shoes. Yes, at times I’m asked if I can “leap tall buildings in a single bound” or “Are you a transformer in evolution?” No doubt, these are some ugly shoes. But my feet have seen many more happy miles than they would have had I listened when my head told me “Forget everything you heard about the ugly shoes.”
Happy trails, paper and otherwise…