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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Why You Absolutely Should Be Sharing Your Crazy Ideas in Meetings

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“OK, forget about money and logistics. Tell me what your ideal partnership between our two departments would be,” my colleague, Ben, said to me a few weeks ago.

Forget about money?

I understood why he said that, but when you’re used to adhering to a pretty strict budget, it’s hard to not think about it. It’s also hard to not think about all the other factors that may have held you back in the past.

When I’m tasked with planning an event or program, my mind automatically runs through a checklist. How much will it cost? Will the desired location be available? Can [insert department] assist with funds and staffing? I need to ensure all bases are covered before my creative process even begins.

“Don’t be afraid to suggest crazy ideas,” Ben said, as I sat there thinking and tapping my pen against my notes. When I laughed, he told me that he “always starts with crazy ideas, because it helps lead other people to have more realistic but great [ones].”

He’s right, and I need to start thinking more like he does. We all should.

Because the thing is, you never know what that “wild” thought will lead to. Sure, it might be declined right off the bat. Or, perhaps, your suggestion inspires an even better, and more brilliant idea, from your teammate. But maybe, just maybe, the decision-maker surprises you and approves your initial proposal.

I’m not saying these have to be completely bizarre or fantastical in nature. I’m just saying that, sometimes, we need to push convention aside and abandon the standard mold (at least temporarily) to find the best solutions and to take things to the next level.

My partner, for instance, works at a community market that also serves as a fast casual restaurant. Since opening almost a year ago, the classic hamburger has been on the menu. A few weeks ago, he suggested they start offering it only on Thursdays.

At first, his team thought the idea was trash. Who takes a good item—a simple, reliable one—off the menu (except for one day)? But he provided his rationale, so they decided to give it a shot.

Prior to this experiment, the store sold around 45 burgers each week. Last week, they sold 95. Just on Thursday. They more than doubled their sales, and they decreased staffing needs, which helped save more money. Not such a trashy thought after all, eh?

Here’s the thing. As much as you think you can predict it, you never really know how others will respond. Nor do you always know what other departments or companies can provide or who is actually willing to lend a hand.

If you assume everyone’s answer will be no, if you limit yourself to planning around limitations you’ve had in the past, you’re closing a lot of doors for yourself, your team, and any clients you may serve.

So, don’t be afraid to propose those long shot, “what-if” ideas. (And don’t be afraid to read this article first on how to get a “yes” out of anyone.) If the answer is no, you shrug it off and move on. But if it’s yes? Then you just probably put something pretty cool into motion. And that’s worth the risk of rejection.