It's Not Your Last Good Idea

Harvey Mackay is a well-known businessman and author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. In his book, he shares a variety of ideas on how to be successful in business. In one section which he calls a Quickie," he has a few brief paragraphs entitled "It's Not Your Last Good Idea." His premise is that in business, there are all kinds of people in all kinds of places, building on and using the same body of knowledge and common experience. So, similar ideas are bound to crop up simultaneously.

He is speaking about what happens when one thinks a competitor has stolen an idea and makes it work. However, this concept can be further explored to include those times when we're "blocked." We've worked long and hard to find a solution to a particular problem, only to find we can't think of any ideas. Writers get writers' block, composers get composers' block, and sometimes we get it too.

As leaders in the Scouts Canada, we handle problems that sometimes appear overwhelming. Sometimes it just seems like there are too many youth with too many problems and too few advocates to fix things. There are many issues we must address. Some days it feels like one thing after the other. How are we going to find a solution when everyone is busy and going in a million different directions? This is where Mr. Mackay's words really make sense. They can give us that little picker upper we need to try again to find a solution. "If you've had one good idea, it's a pretty good indication that you can come up with another."

So, here you are with this membership problem. It has you stumped. What to do? According to Roger von Oech, president of Creative Think and author of A Whack on the Side of the Head, perhaps you should just change your approach . . .

Try looking for the second right answer.

When we have a problem, we'll often come up with a good idea to solve it. How about two ideas instead of one? What are the results we want? Look for more than one result. What are the meanings of this? There must be more than one meaning. What are they? Having two (or more) ideas for solutions broadens our outlook on a situation. It gives us different points of view. Ask your group to pose a solution; then ask for a second idea. Although it may not be easy, the second one may actually be more effective than the first. You can also ask what if? questions, i.e., What results would we get if we did it this way rather than that way?

Change the question.

Describe the problem using different terms. For example, think of a pencil as a 6-inch piece of hexagonal wood wrapped around a 6 1/2-inch cylinder of lead. This description brings a slightly different slant on the pencil because now we're describing the elements of the object. Try this with whatever situation you're facing, using a different focus and different descriptions.

Don't feel the need to be logical all the time.

Even if some ideas sound off the wall, spend some time on them. Silly ideas might just lead to the crowning glory of ideas. When brainstorming, we take all suggestions, no matter how much of a stretch we think it might take. But that one might spark someone else to add to it, change it, "massage it," and come up with the one that outshines all the others. You might even try looking for the wrong answer. Whatever, it's okay to break the rules in this case.

Speaking of rules . . .

Challenging the rules is a good creative thinking strategy. It keeps us from getting "locked in" to one approach at the exclusion of all others, and it keeps the ideas flowing. What would have happened if the world had listened to Harry Warner, president of Warner Brothers in 1927, when talking pictures were just coming out. Mr. Warner asked, "Who wants to hear actors talk?" Head of the U.S. Patent Office Charles Duell said, "Everything that can be invented, has been invented." That was in 1899.

Where would we be if everyone had listened and not questioned? You could even have a rule-inspecting and rule-discarding session as a result of this exercise!

It's okay to, shhhhh, have some fun.

These strategies can be fun, too. Although we're serious about membership development, it's a well-known fact that laughter is healthy.

If your group laughs while brainstorming ideas or posing solutions, it's okay. In fact, it should be encouraged. Levity gives the brain a breather. It brings people in a group together because they have something in common -- they laughed together. When you return to the matter at hand you'll find ideas flow better.

Levity, brevity, necessity . . .

All these strategies can work when helping your youth work out their problems, too. With these ideas, you can help them develop the ability to see the opportunity in the situation; then they can explore options rather than just solving the problem.

This is a tool that will last forever.

For the final words of wisdom "There's No Future in Saying It Can't Be Done." Again, our application is a bit different than the one Mr. Mackay had in mind, but it boils down to the same thing. Take chances on the different ideas your group comes up with. Yes, there may be some that won't work, but you have to get through those to get to the times when they will work. The reason? Change. The world around us is changing constantly. There are new theories every day about change and how to make it work for you. Whatever theory you follow, there are more advantages to change than to hanging on to the old way, especially when you've already tried the old way and it doesn't work!

Don't worry if your group experiences resistance at first. That's normal. When the new ideas produce the results you want, people will sit up and take notice. Even better, our youth will be the benefactors.

Reproduced for by permission of Scouter Douglas Moore - Nova Scotia