I’m the leader.
I’m the one my team of twelve comes to when they have ideas. A few months ago, one of my team members came to me with a solution they thought would help eliminate customer friction on the website. I LOVED it! I loved it so much I jumped to implementation. But, it quickly became that this idea wasn’t going to work. How is that possible, I thought.
Two weeks later another member of my team came to me with an opportunity they thought was worth pursuing. Of course I could instantly see the value so we went for it. It didn’t quite pan out. I couldn’t figure out what we did wrong.
But then it hit me! All the ideas we implemented went through ME.
I am the gatekeeper they had to please in order to have their ideas implemented.
This may not sound bad, but let’s reverse engineer what’s really happening.
First, people were building their ideas around what they thought I would like. Their original thought was pure gold, but then they added layers of “Tamara” in order to get me to say yes. In doing so they only went down one path of thinking. Their view got more myopic and focused, not more innovative and expansive. In making me the solo gatekeeper I was sabotaging innovation.
Second, the “yes or no” moment had nothing to do with the real world. Sure, I bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the table but I’m sure we can all agree that times are changing rapidly and we need new thinking to navigate the new landscape. I was saying yes in theory, not in reality. We went from “what about this idea” to “launch” without any testing or optimizing.
I decided to do a little experimentation of my own. I wanted to test my theory that this solo gatekeeper strategy was a bad one. So, the next time someone on my team came to me with an idea, I did two things.
#1 Collaborate – I asked them to connect with at least two other key stakeholders to get their perspective before any further conversations. I asked them to reach out to others to develop their ideas. This created more robust thinking and hence, ideas.
#2 Experiment – Instead of relying on past experience and knowledge, I asked them to get some duct tape and scented markers and do one tiny experiment to bring their idea to life and get real world feedback. If time allowed, I’d ask them to do this 3 – 4 times before we met to discuss. This created truly viable, and often optimized, ideas!
This small adjustment in how we moved forward, saved us wasted time, energy and money on failed ideas and built a pipeline of robust viable solutions that made an impact.
My advice to leaders out there, get rid of the solo gatekeeper that makes innovation myopic and weak. Instead, Collaborate and experiment your way to robust optimized ideas that have real lasting power.