Should You Reward Bad Ideas?
True or false: There’s no such thing as a bad idea.
Of course bad ideas exist. In retrospect, the AOL–Time Warner merger was not the wisest idea. Neither is photocopying your face. But ask any number of innovation experts and they’ll all give you a different answer. Of course there is such thing as a bad idea. Or:Every idea has its merit. Or: It depends…
Within the context of innovation, how to handle bad ideas is a controversial topic because statistically speaking, most ideas are bad. Ninety-three percent of successful innovations start in the wrong direction and countless more never succeed. “In entrepreneurship, most ideas fail,” explains Roy Rosin, Intuit‘s vice president of innovation. “You either scale the wrong thing or you scale in the wrong direction. And it’s hard to predict.”
With no handy algorithm to identify good ideas, innovative companies have to accept that with every great, useful, idea, there will be many more that fall away. Unused ideas are frequently off-topic, underdeveloped, or poorly timed; however, this doesn’t make them bad. So should you reject these wayward ideas, or should you reward them?
Taken literally, rewarding bad ideas sounds preposterous. In competitive climates, separating the best from the rest motivates future growth. But most entrepreneurs would agree that to foster creativity and collaboration, every voice should be listened to and every idea should be shared. If every unused idea is treated like a bad idea, don’t we run the risk of discouraging future innovation? The following six arguments for and against rewarding so-called bad ideas will help you decide what is best for your company.
Should You Reward Bad Ideas? Yes, Reward Unappealing Ideas.
Chances are, you won’t like every idea brought to the table. But hold your judgment. Successful brainstorms incorporate a diverse group of people collaborating with one another and contributing as much as possible without any arguments, debates or snap decisions on their merit.
“The worst thing you can do as a leader is to be the single determining factor of whether an idea is good or bad,” says innovation coach Robert Brands. “If they’re good, they become the boss’s idea and if they’re bad, you lose ownership of the operation.”
Instead, Brands suggests a method where everyone (“From the maintenance man to the CEO,” he says. “Everyone!”) develop the parameters new ideas should be measured against. Common parameters include profitability, patent potential, customers service, global impact. And, if an idea doesn’t fit your parameters but your employees are passionate about it, consider rewarding their enthusiasm instead.
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