As a leader, where do the best ideas for your organization come from?
I once heard that the mind is like a parachute. It works best when it’s open.
When I served in high school administration, we always had a student, a senior, in our administrative cabinet. Each year it was a different student. I thought the best ideas annually came from that student.
I saw the same thing when, as the Athletic Chair at the university level serving close to 400 student-athletes in 14 sports, we established a Student Athletic Advisory Board composed of an athlete from each team. Some of the very best ideas we had for our Athletic Department came from these students. They brought ideas to our Athletic Department that we, as athletic administrators, never thought of.
As a collegiate basketball coach, we had to beat a certain team to advance to the national tournament. They had the best offense I had coached against in my forty-four years of basketball coaching. The coach with the least basketball coaching experience on our staff came up with the best idea to defend their offense. It was the singular best idea that advanced our team to the nationals.
In a recent blog post, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter calls for business leaders to “encourage new ideas, especially from below and from unexpected sources.” In short, she says that innovation is inclusive, not exclusive, and that it’s a mistake to assume that all of the good ideas come from an elite group of insiders. (Source)
The key, I believe, is for leaders to have an open mind and to be respectful of the resources you have around you. Everyone has unique experiences and insights that can be used to advance the greater good of the organization.
Keeping that parachute open can be the best thing a leader can do.