July 3, 2008

Upend the Idea Approval Process


Lately I've been in quite a few conversations with people bemoaning the slow idea approval process in their organizations or how easily one or two people can block what others might see as an innovation worth pursuing.

So I'm thinking the best way to try and circumvent this all too frequent reality is upending the idea approval process.  What I propose is an automatic green light for ANY idea that meets a short list of predetermined criteria.  As long as the idea meets these criteria no individual, no group, no department, no naysayer can stop it from advancing.

Generating that initial criteria list and making it specific enough to leave little room for individual interpretation will no doubt be a bit challenging.  But it only needs to be done once and then the ideas can flourish.

This automatic green lighting is an example of what Jim Collins refers to as a "catalytic mechanism."  What makes the mechanism so powerful is that it disrupts traditional processes and power structures in ways that accelerate change and have ripple effects throughout an organization.
A summary of the Harvard Business Review article about the characteristics of these mechanism states that they share five characteristics. "First, they produce desired results in unpredictable ways. Second, they distribute power for the benefit of the overall system, often to the discomfort of those who traditionally hold power. Third, catalytic mechanisms have teeth. Fourth, they eject 'viruses--those people who don't share the company's core values. Finally, they produce an ongoing effect."

It simply has to be more empowering for people to speak up and experiment with some new possibilities if they know definitively that they will be able to carry their idea forward.

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