A Safe Place

As a private business owner, with whom do you have meaningful discussions about new ideas? Think about the last good idea – the one that became a plan, was executed, and made money. Did it emerge as a written document, ready for an action plan and metrics, or did it require development, revision, and support for implementation? Most good ideas, that is to say, ideas that are implemented and make money, require nurturing. There is the creative act of conceiving the idea, but then it must be articulated. Those who hear it will measure it against their perceived reality and the test of their experience and foresight. The reaction of those listeners will revise and shape the concept.

Wise owners understand that as fallible human beings – no matter how talented or brilliant – the articulation of ideas to another comprehending the problem is essential before an effective problem-solving strategy can be constructed. The responsibility of the listener is to absorb the concept and compare it to the listener’s perception of reality and evaluation of the logic and thinking involved. This discussion can establish whether the idea is based on an accurate perception of reality and logical thinking. The chafe of the delusion and absurdity must be shucked away to obtain the kernels of realistic solutions. The incubation of ideas requires discussion. There must be a safe place for that discussion.

When you are testing thinking and the logic behind it, the discussion is not without consequence. Where a founder-owner has created a profitable business entity with stakeholders (owners and employees – their families and dependants) now looking to the owner to sustain the enterprise, stakeholders are not the ideal participants for a discussion of new ideas. The candor of the listener’s reply is essential to the effective development of the idea from concept to plan. When the listener is vested in the effect of the plan, the evaluation of the plan is more difficult – the emotional aspect of the concern of the listener is unavoidable. People vested in what you do or create will react emotionally to what you say even if it is only musing or brainstorming. If you espouse ideas that are not appropriate to their concerns, there will be a defensive reaction – not necessarily expressed. The idea may change, but the memory of the perceived conflict may not dissolve. This makes candid discussion concerning new ideas with business stakeholders difficult in a variety of situations. On the other hand, those not vested in the business may not have the knowledge to meaningfully comment on the articulation of the idea. This often leaves owners talking to the mirror or confiding only to those who are discreet, loyal, and unlikely to be critical or challenge wrong thinking. Neither of these activities is conducive to the healthy development of ideas. The safe place requires discussion, not solitude.

That is not to say that conversations with stakeholders should not be held, but those conversations should come at a later time in the development of the concept. As a part of group decision-making, the most effective decision-making process, those affected by the concept should be involved in its development and know that it has been shaped by their comments.

The creation of a profitable business is a significant accomplishment. The process of creativity, logic, and thinking that caused that success will be called upon again and again for the business to grow and remain successful. In a competitive economy, change is required for sustenance and growth. The creative process that created the business will be called upon to manage its growth and sustain its profitability. This requires a change in the process of making decisions used in starting up to meet the additional demands for quality ideas based on an accurate perception of changing reality and the application of logic and clear thinking. The decision-making process used for the startup will have to be changed to manage profitability and growth.

Where is the safe place for ownership to incubate the new idea – to make the initial articulation of something that might be the right or the wrong thing to do? For many owners that place is with a professional advisor to the business. The advisor – be it accountant, lawyer, or consultant – will have the requisite knowledge about the business and also have the objectivity to provide a constructive review of the newly hatched idea. The successful owner or group of owners must find a safe place, master the incubation process for new ideas, and create the decision-making procedure to develop ideas to implement documented planning which can be executed, monitored, and revised for success.