Be An Idea Rescuer
For the sake of argument, let’s agree that the word “love” is the most powerful word in the English language. If it is not the most powerful, it surely is somewhere near the top. To prove this point, I can guarantee that if you randomly approach the next stranger you encounter and say that you “love” him or her, you will get unwavering attention (and maybe a subpoena).
Another word near the top of all-time attention getters is the word “idea.” People love to hear about ideas. If you walk up to someone you know and say, “Hey, I have an idea!” and they respond with, “Ah, that’s too bad,” you are playing on a different game board than I am.
In virtually every case, people eagerly want to hear more about your idea. People like to hear ideas, and they like to have ideas. Time Magazine’s Man of the Millennium was, quite simply, the ultimate human idea machine — Thomas Edison.
Enter The KGB
Unfortunately, people also can be pretty negative when it comes to other people’s ideas. Some people feel it’s their birthright to blow away other people’s brainstorms. I call these people agents of the KGB — Killers of Germinating Brainstorms. You, at times, may be one. It doesn’t make you a bad person. You just have a bad habit.
If you think I’m stuck in a cold war time warp with this KGB notion, try this test. Approach somebody you care about, cold turkey, and pretend that a bolt of inspiration just jolted you. (Play act a little here.) You must look and sound excited . . . and eager to share your news. (If you really want to get into it, slap the side of your head a couple of times and jump up and down until you have everyone’s attention in the room.) Say with emphasis,
“I just got a GREAAAAAT IDEA! Who wants to hear it?”
Rest assured that everyone within earshot, without exception, will want to hear your brain child.
Then with uncontrollable excitement in your voice, tell them what you are planning to do. Start a new business. Go to Tahiti. Start a dating service. Learn to fly a blimp. Anything will do as long as you sound sincerely juiced. Cap your explanation with these four words: “What do you think?”
They in turn, without exception, will immediately enlist in the KGB with these five words:
(#1) The ……. (#2) problem……. (#3) with…… (#4) that ……(#5) is . . .
The answer you will hear (and you can take this to the bank) is: “The problem with that is . . .”
You think I’m exaggerating? Here’s a very brief excerpt from the long list of people whose ideas have been bombed:
- Copernicus: The Earth revolves around the sun
- Christopher Columbus: You won’t fall off Earth sailing West
- Jesus Christ: The Kingdom of God On Earth
- Isaac Newton: Gravity; Laws of Motion
- Darwin: Evolution; Natural selection
- Einstein: Theory of relatively
- Bill Gates: People will want personal computers and need software
- FedEx: You can actually deliver a package anywhere in the U.S. overnight
- Steve Jobs: Not everybody will want IBM computers
- Billy Joel: I can be a star
- Thomas Edison: Everything else (e.g. electric lights, audio recording, motion pictures, etc.)
All of these people had great ideas or ambitions but very few people gave them much of a chance to succeed. Most people tried to punch holes in their balloons.
There are always exceptions. Take my Uncle Alfred. If you go up to Al and say “Hey Al, I have an idea.” Al will quickly respond with “Count me in!” as opposed to the reverse-spin response, “Include me out!”Al is truly an exception to the rule. (Alfred is an exception to just about everything.) Others will take great pleasure in tossing a series of darts at your unprotected balloon. Once you understand this to be true, it shouldn’t bother you any further.
Crush The Negative-niks
My message here is simply: Don’t be one of these people. When a prospect, client or co-worker tosses out an idea, be positive. Be up. Be interested in their ideas, and seek out more information on how they plan on fulfilling the idea. Be supportive, a coach, a dream weaver. Be anything but a negative, pessimistic, dime-a-dozen, critic. You can help them think through ideas, just don’t crush them.
Be the exception! Position yourself as the person decision-makers call when they need a lift, a breath of fresh air, and a positive sounding board. You’ll become an indispensable member of their inner circle, plus every now and then you may help launch a major new trend or business direction.