Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.
This morning I was in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas (where I’m attending a wedding later this evening) and as I was flipping through the channels on the TV looking for a news update I stumbled across something else that couldn’t escape my attention. It was a man in a purple suit and a tan top hat, singing to a bunch of kids in a chocolate factory…….
“If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world?
There’s nothing to it” –
“Pure Imagination”, Leslie Bricusse / Anthony Newley
It was Willy Wonka. Yes, that Willy Wonka (in this case played by Gene Wilder in the 1971 movie). He had been a frequent visitor to my subconscious throughout my corporate career, always managing to show up at times when I needed him, along with his admittedly peculiar brand of inspiration. But he had disappeared for 6 years after I wrote about my last encounter with him.
So why was Wonka back now? He knew I needed something that I hadn’t tapped into for some time – it was 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 steps a leader needs to take to make that happen:
- Have a (very) 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.
- Create 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.
- Get EVERYBODY 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 lost count of the ideas we implemented from teammate suggestions across the entire 1,100 employee base in our cable TV business).
- “Dream 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.
Go Wonka – build your idea factory, believe, and then change the world.
Nothing to it. 🙂