In 1900, Mark Twain gave a speech called “The Disappearance of Literature” and told the rapt audience:
“I don’t believe any of you have ever read PARADISE LOST, and you don't want to. That's something that you just want to take on trust. It's a classic, just as Professor Winchester says, and it meets his definition of a classic -- something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”
Ideas often follow in the same territory.
Everyone wants good ideas, but most don’t want to do the heavy lifting and difficult decision making to bring those ideas to life. Like life, ideas can be messy. They interfer with the anticipated order of things.
I believe that one of the biggest myths about ideas is that you have to act on them. *
In seminars, I’ve coined a phrase: “Ideas aren’t mandates.”
Ideas, especially provocative or disruptive ones, are often perceived as threats. And smaller, more incremental ideas are sometimes seen as a nuisance – an extra note on an already well-written song.
What I am talking about is mental plasticity or agility. It is being truly open to ideas. It’s about listening, entertaining, discussing, deliberating, or tabling ideas -- no matter how seemingly disruptive.
To put this in context, many of my seminars begin with quick experiment with Ned Herrmann’s brain dominance theory. So participants fall into one of four thinking styles.
Of the four thinking styles, there is a one that has a bias for action. In a group, this trait is highly valued. But participants in this group literally “wince” when a new idea is put on the table.
The idea here is not to let new ideas derail you – but allow them to speak – sometimes softly and sometimes loudly.
* By acting on ideas – I mean the need to put them into action not the more embracive term of act as any mental effort or consideration.