Whatever your role, ideas are the key to your success. To get ahead, you need to have good ideas. You need others to buy into them. And you need to execute them. This week we’re looking at what gets in the way for far too many professionals, and what you can do instead so your ideas can take you to the top.


Last weekend, I heard an interview between Daniel Pink and Malcolm Gladwell about ideas, that sparked my thinking about what gets in the way of having and implementing great ideas.

The interview was part of a special broadcast by Daniel Pink. He was promoting his new book, The Power of Regret. If you’re not familiar with Pink, he’s the author of several bestselling books about business, work, creativity, and behavior. He does a great weekly Pinkcast that’s full of great ideas.

In this broadcast, he interviewed Malcolm Gladwell, who is also a bestselling author of several books relating to business and social science. They were talking about ideas, and what struck me was both of them said that they tend to socialize their ideas a lot. They talk about them to anyone who will listen. The reason, they said, is that those conversations help them get more depth and more information to spur their thinking – and tend to generate even more ideas.

I was struck by that because I think for a lot of people, there’s a tendency to hold your ideas close to your vest. There’s a worry that someone else might steal them or take credit for them. So instead of sharing their ideas, most people tend to work alone or with a very small group of trusted advisors to work them out.

They each then shared even more about what they’re looking for when they share their ideas.

Pink said he’s looking for someone to say not just, “Oh, that’s a great idea,” but actually something more like, “Oh, that’s a great idea, but have you thought about this or here’s another place where that could apply…” In other words, he’s looking for people to build on his idea or even start to shape it in a different way from what he originally had in mind.

This was also striking to me because I think that’s also different from how most people react when someone starts to change their idea.

For a lot of us, if someone else responds with “have you thought about” or some other direction than what we had in mind, we might start to shut down. There’s an impulse to pull the idea back to ourselves, to keep it to ourselves – because now it’s not “our” idea anymore. We might feel small or rejected or frustrated that the other person doesn’t simply love our idea exactly the way we put it out there.

Pink’s mindset, on the other hand, is that he wants people to engage with and build on his ideas. Those conversations start to build energy around the idea. When people do that, then he knows that that idea is one that’s going to gain traction because people are connecting with it.

What a useful attitude.

Imagine how productive organizations could be if people routinely shifted their thinking from, “It’s my idea and I have to hold onto it,” to the attitude of, “It’s my idea so I need to put it out there to see where the energy takes us.” What a generative way of thinking!

That attitude not only helps the idea grow, but it also starts to sweep people into it, because now they have a piece of it too. Now they’re all part of it. That’s one of the best ways to get an idea to spread and grow.

Gladwell took it a step further. He said that what he wants in response to an idea is for other people to say something like, “I don’t believe it.” That’s when he knows he’s come up with something unique.

Gladwell is known for out-of-the-box thinking.

Again, I invite you to imagine being fully open to someone telling you they don’t believe your idea. Is that your typical response? For most people, the answer is “no.” But again, the most creative and adventuresome leaders are able to stand strong in the face of doubt. They’re willing to keep going with their idea, longer than most. They’re willing to go against the norm, and because of that, they create new opportunities.

Doing that takes tenacity and grit – not to mention self-confidence that can withstand criticism. The good news: these characteristics can be developed, even if you don’t have them right now.

It is possible to create a strong, confident sense of self.  It’s possible to shift your reactions to criticism or doubt. It’s also possible to become more open and engaging so that others join in and support your ideas. That ultimately makes it much more likely that you will be able to implement your ideas and generate the kinds of results that will lead to promotions.

Now, I know you may be thinking, “Well, that’s all well and good, but in my organization, people steal ideas. So what do you do about that?” And that is a great question. Here again, when you have a strong sense of self, there are specific strategies you can use to ensure that you get credit for your ideas, without coming across as bragging or territorial.

Ultimately there are 3 areas to develop so that your ideas contribute to your success: a strong sense of self, the ability to partner with others and win them over, and finally an awareness of the political landscape in your organization and how to navigate it.

Those are all things I work with my clients to develop. As a result, they’re able to carry out their great ideas and get recognized for them. The result is that they get to have a real impact, which translates into promotions and pay raises.

If this is something you’d like to know more about, book a call with me today.

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