The Good Idea Test

A spikey light bulb
Beware ideas: they are dangerous

Want to get a quick sense of the vitality, leadership and sanity of an organization? Ask a very simple question:

“What do you do with good ideas?”

Good ideas die daily in dysfunctional organizations. Politics, silos and entrenched interests offer them no outlet: they wither on the vine. There’s never a lack of excuses for why that happens, including…

  • It’s not the right time
  • That’s not your job
  • You don’t understand the politics at play
  • We have too much on our plate already

…and my perennial favourite:

  • That doesn’t support our <mission statement / corporate priorities / mandate / goals / current management fad / etc.>

Good ideas aren’t a nice-to-have. They’re not dessert: they’re what give people a reason to show up in the morning. They’re also what drive an organization forward and allow it to innovate. Successful organizations have cultures and processes to encourage, support, capture and develop good ideas. Dysfunctional ones find ways to shoot them down or sweep them under the carpet.

So when you’re at your next job interview, ask the question: “What do you do with good ideas?” if you’re met with puzzled expressions or stony silence, run.

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