Is This Place Safe…? Part II

challenge status quo

Awhile back, I spoke with a small business leader who was struggling.

I asked him how many ideas he had coming in from the field… from his staff, as well as customers and suppliers.

Customers and suppliers?

Yup… customers and suppliers. I’m a believer in bringing in very targeted customers and suppliers, mixing them with carefully chosen staff, and creating an informal advisory board.

I find them way more helpful than many other business organizations, but… more on this later.

Now, back to the question… how many ideas?

Answer… next to none.


This conversation took place while travelling… and he was not in my target market. But alas, I pressed on for three reasons:

1) To gain a better understanding of the causes of his situation
2) To help him sort it out if I could
3) To avoid falling into small-talk like “How’s the weather back in Chicago?”

After all, I knew that answer. The weather in Chicago was just like it was when I left Green Bay… the anti-global-warming capital.

But I digress.

He described their meetings. They were dominated by a few individuals… and the culture had devolved into an attitude of ‘what’s wrong with this idea?’

“They like to play ‘Devil’s Advocate’ a lot… I know some people do get stepped on.” he said. “But, I guess it saves me money on frivolous things.”

“Yeah…”, I said. “I know what you mean… but I’ve also seen it knock the stuffing out of the seedlings of great ideas. It’s a fine line.”


This stopped him in his tracks… and he asked what I did.

“You know how small business owners are having to do more with less these days? I help ’em eliminate the most common and costly leadership and marketing challenges… the stuff that hangs everyone up. It’s like taking a huge weight off their back… and they make more money.”

Wow… he asked what I meant earlier by ‘a fine line.’

“The fact is, the ‘best ideas’ tend to beat ‘average ideas’… and ‘average ideas’ tend to beat
‘no ideas’.”

His alpha staff members had control alright, and they were driving innovation, and morale, into the dust. I explained that the germ of an idea needs space to grow, and should have the protection of time… of a safe environment.

“Your people have ‘ideas’. Given respect… given time… given the right environment… you may find they have ‘great ideas’. Ditto to your customers and suppliers.”

Oh yeah… back to them. We’ll pick that up tomorrow.



On a scale of 1-10, how open is your organization to new ideas?

What if the ideas seriously challenge the status quo?

What if they meant moving the business? Or changing the product or service lines entirely?

What if they came from the newest kid on the block?


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