Monday, 24 May 2010

Why we need 'small creative ideas' now more than ever...

... and how to spend less money on external consultancy:

I run two blogs: this one and my other one which is dedicated to supporting, communicating and celebrating the small and creative ideas that are making a difference in the public and third sectors. Click here for more details. That blog now has well over 300 ideas for how to improve efficiency or effectiveness or flexibility or all three. It has been browsed over 13000 times in the last year and bit. Please visit and please add your ideas to the stock there. And of course feel free to plunder the ideas for use in your own organisations.

Sometimes people ask me why I set up the small creative ideas blog. I guess it is because I am generally fed up with the focus on big initiatives and massive reengineering projects and whole scale restructuring as being the answers to better results. Instead I take the view that within almost all organisations are people with ideas for improvement urgently wanting to be heard. But it seems that these organisations would rather hire expensive consultants / programme managers / high flying executives to come in and do improvement to the organisation. The implicit beliefs underlying this are that we need people from outside (or at the most senior echelon) to have all the big ideas.

However it seems to me that the most important ingredient in success for any organisation - large or small - is motivation. This is not just the motivation to turn up, or indeed the motivation to do good professional job. The kind of motivation I am talking about is the desire to think "how can we do this better?... how can we deliver even more to those we serve?... what do I and my colleagues have to do to achieve even more than yesterday?..." This kind of energy is rare in many organisations. Indeed, many of these organisations do not even know what they are missing.

If organisations focus on bringing in outside "experts" (often at huge costs) - I think this kind of ordinary but rare motivation is neutralised (or at the very least it is not nurtured). At the worst - people are turned off and will maybe even seek to sabotage the organisation or harm it in some way.

I know I am not alone in thinking this - but I and my fellow 'activists' against the "bring in the expensive experts" approach to organisational development are sometimes marginalised. Perhaps this is because many senior people do not allow themselves to really believe in the boundless creative energy of more junior people - despite the oft favoured words of "our people are a greatest asset". Large consultancies, naturally, collude with this view and happily (and expensively) introduce cumbersome systems of performance management, target setting and human resource management strategies (etc.) which weigh down the organisations and squeeze out creativity.

I declare that I have a profoundly optimistic view of people. I believe most people, given the right conditions, default to being creative, clever, enthusiastic and committed. But given the wrong conditions, all of us can become cynical, de-motivated, dull and tedious.

And so this is why I created the small creative ideas blog. I wanted a blog that would celebrate the small ideas - the small ideas (that can easily become the big ideas with great results too) that come from the ordinary people in organisations - the people whose voices and ideas deserve and demand to be heard. I want that blog to be part of the effort to help make this happen - because I believe it is good for business, good for people and good for the world.

Crucially, I am interested in what leaders in these organisations (where these ideas bubble forth like a mountain brook), are doing to create the right context. This for me is critical. Simply exhorting organisations to do more to unleash the small ideas with big results is not enough. I want to hear about and publish here what leaders are doing to make this happen. In this way I hope that other leaders will learn and add to their own practice. These ideas are welcome in this blog or in my other one.

My ultimate aim for the small creative ideas blog is that it will become a self regenerating hub, humming with the small and creative ideas from all over the world that are making the world a healthier, wealthier, happier and sustainable place for us and for future generations. Please contribute & please circulate. Thank you

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