Buy the idea, be the idea

Together we create - image for article by Greg Alder

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

You’ve no doubt heard the saying. There’s a lot of wisdom in it.

Nobody wants to be dependent on others for survival. And yet in business that’s exactly what happens.

When I worked in advertising, clients paid a lot of money for their agency’s ideas. Those ideas helped them enter new markets, grow their markets, build awareness of their products or services or causes, and enhance their brand reputations.

Sometimes those ideas became tired. Clients started to question the sense in paying for ideas that aren’t as effective as they once were.

Sometimes clients grew tired of those ideas. They paid more money for new ideas.

Sometimes clients were seduced by other people’s ideas. They stopped paying one company for their ideas and started paying another company for theirs.

When an idea is still fresh, a client will feel a sense of pride and ownership. When the idea has gone stale, clients feel bored and restless. The idea – no matter how good – is taken for granted. Its value plummets.

(And really, that’s true of anything we buy.)

But, think about how different it is with something you have created yourself.

When you’ve given birth to the idea, you cherish it, nurture it, defend it and love it. You become the idea. You live and breathe it.

The more people given a chance to create an idea, the more collective passion for seeing it blossom into reality.

One person trying to sell an idea might succeed. Eight people campaigning for an idea have a much higher chance of success. When one or more of the eight is also the client, then the idea is guaranteed of acceptance.

In a workshop years ago I saw the looks of amazement and achievement on the faces of young Singaporeans when they realised what they had created – a hundred innovative ways to promote Singapore to the world. The pride was palpable.

They were no longer government employees performing the tasks prescribed in their job descriptions. They were creators. They were people with minds bursting with valuable ideas. With these ideas they were shaping the future of their jobs and their organisation and their country.

There are certain things few of us will ever choose to make ourselves. Building our own cars is one.

There are plenty of things that we currently buy because we don’t believe we can create them ourselves. Simple things, things that don’t require the specialist machinery or materials that cars do. Simple things like ideas.

Clients used to pay me for my ideas. Now they pay me to teach them how to create their own ideas. Once they’ve learnt the techniques, they have them for life. They’ll use them again and again to solve unsolved problems on demand, to see unseen opportunities, to change core business procedures, to become more entrepreneurial and more agile.

Once they have a taste for creating ideas, and have rediscovered their own creativity, there’s no turning back.

If you haven’t yet discovered the joy of coming up with your own ideas, you’re in for a treat. If you help your team to come up with their own unexpected ideas, they’re in for a treat.

I know from questions I am asked almost daily that people in all sorts of jobs want to be given the chance to create, want to be shown the techniques to do it, and want to be appreciated for their ideas.

Instead of buying other people’s ideas, it’s time to grow your own.

Photo by My Life Through a Lens via Unsplash

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