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Sharing Ideas = Value

Posted by Mark Bennett on March 29, 2008


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How do you view Talent? How do you see it contribute value through ideas? 

A recent post described how the Clinton campaign claimed Obama copied her “second stimulus” package, calling for a $30 billion package after she did. Obvious political maneuvering aside, this strikes as having a very “fixed mindset” perspective on the value of ideas. Is the idea itself really the thing of value, and just how much does it reflect the ability of a staff that decides to propose it? What we can do is look at this and reflect on how we view (and treat) ideas inside our organization, and what impact that has on how well we create value through Talent. 

Do you see Talent as largely a “fixed and invariant” quality in people? Or do you see that while people can have different strengths (and weaknesses), Talent is not completely fixed or determined and can be influenced by factors such as motivation, experience, management, and leadership? Check out Chapter 4 of Pfeffer and Sutton’s “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, & Total Nonsense” if you aren’t sure. Viewing Talent as a fixed quality originates from, and perpetuates, a “fixed mindset” in the organization vs. a “growth mindset.” One result is that people in that kind of organization have no incentive to contribute in the open sharing and collaboration of ideas; the downside is simply too great. A fixed mindset organization sees only the ideas as the unit of value, which in turn originate but are separate from the minds that brought them forth, and that the goal is to extract as many of them as possible that can be successfully transformed into profitable pursuits. Most measurements in that environment are around how much knowledge a person has, how many ideas they’ve come with, etc. People quickly learn to not share knowledge or ideas with others (i.e. the competition that copies your ideas), but instead fight for as many resources as possible to turn their ideas and knowledge into value before someone else does. This kind of culture breeds fear; fear of failure because that means less likelihood of obtaining future resources. 

A growth mindset organization recognizes that through everyone’s contribution, not hoarding, of knowledge and ideas does the maximum value get created. This doesn’t mean all ideas are equal in value and it doesn’t mean all ideas get the resources to move forward. Instead, the incentives are such that all contribution is recognized and performance is measured more on how a person collaborates with others to find and promote the ideas that hold the most promise for creating value. The notion of “copying ideas” just doesn’t factor in. Instead, it’s about turning knowledge and ideas into action. True, there will still be disagreements and competition for resources, but the open exchange and development of ideas are rewarded. In many cases, ideas will start from anywhere, possibly change the way people look at things, and trigger input from a diverse and informed set of supportive coworkers. Then, through discussion, experimentation, and testing, they will get developed and transformed into a sustainable competitive advantage for the company. In addition, a growth mindset organization sees there is value even in failure because something is learned that results in increased understanding. Since the failure is not hidden, everyone benefits from the greater understanding. 

Are you recognizing your Talent, wherever it is, for sharing ideas, contributing to their development, and assisting in their successful transformation into action? 

Are you providing the collaborative tools (like wikis, blogs, forums, and networks) to let them share their ideas, comment on other ideas, synthesize ideas, and be recognized for it?

One Response to “Sharing Ideas = Value”

  1. Meg Bear said

    One thing to add is that making sure to acknowledge those whose ideas you are building upon is just good manners. Building a culture of saying “thanks” and not having a zero-sum game for credit is also critical as well.

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