“If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world?
To it” –
Leslie Bricusse / Anthony Newley
Lately I’ve been thinking about Willy Wonka. Yes, that Willy Wonka. The guy with the Chocolate Factory. A month ago it entered my subconscious courtesy of that AT&T commercial that features the song “Pure Imagination“, sung by the first movie Wonka, Gene Wilder. This past week it moved to the forefront after a visit to a candy store (Powell’s, in Boulder CO) that had an entire Willy Wonka “shrine” (with more things to attack your sweet tooth than you could ever imagine).
Why Willy, and why now? It’s that power of the imagination, and while it can create a magical (and admittedly sometimes scary) candy factory, it can also create a similarly wondrous “idea factory” that can drive leadership success, and long-term profitability.
Ideas are the lifeblood of any organization, and how they are generated, harvested, and turned into action is critical to continuous improvement.
How can a leader build an effective idea factory?
There are five important elements:
- A leader’s open mind. It has to start with you. If your mind is closed off to new ideas, or different ways of thinking, the rest of the organization will take your lead.
- An atmosphere of trust. Fear is one of the biggest impediments to idea generation. If someone fears that their suggestions will be summarily shot down in nearly every instance, that person will simply stop trying. A leader must be trusted with the ideas and dreams of their teammates, no matter how “off the wall” they may be.
- EVERYBODY is involved in idea generation. That’s right, everybody. Every single person in the organization possesses “pure imagination”, and a leader would be remiss not to encourage, and then tap into, that collective brain power. (A personal example: I’ve lost count of the ideas we’ve implemented from teammate suggestions across our entire employee base).
- “Dreaming by example”. The leader needs to stimulate the idea generation by throwing out ideas of their own, not as final decisions, but as more of a way to get the ideas flowing from their teammates. It calls for a lot of “What if” , “Have we ever thought of” or “What do you think of” kind of questions.
- Never lose the wonder and whimsy. I’ve written that the “secret of life” is never growing up, and indeed, that child’s sense of wonder is an element of idea generation that just HAS to be there if an organization is going to swing for the fences with big changes, or to go after those “BHAGs” (big, hairy and audacious goals). And a little whimsy doesn’t hurt either (lighthearted humor can loosen up the idea muscles better than anything I know).
In other words, everybody needs a little Wonka in them. With no limits to their pure imagination.
Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.
Build your idea factory, and believe.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and while you’re here don’t forget to download my FREE e-book, “Leadership From a Glass Half-Full – The 5 Lessons You Need To Learn Before You Jump Into The Pool”