Tuesday, July 2, 2019

How to come up with creative ideas: Listen to what your executives are saying

(draft blog, editing in progress)
[Note: I recently started sharing my scribbles on How to come up with creative ideas. To reiterate, my idea in sharing these is to look back at this list for my own inspiration and for those who are interested.]

In my career time when i was leading large teams, i often cited the story of Brian Fitzpatrick (Google) to my teams. This case appeared in HBR a few years ago but the nuances of it are still relevant. Gist of his story- Brian joined Google as a Senior Software Engineer. Based on his interests and inclination, he became the champion for various end-user focused on initiatives. In his quest to better the end-user needs, he identified strategic gap in the organization. Precisely that gap was- Google wasn't doing good enough job in giving users better control of their personal data. He teamed-up with amicable and aligned individuals and led the project that took shape as Google Takeout that allowed users to export the captured user data from various Google Services (like Gmail, Blogger, Calendar, Chrome, Photos etc.). So much was the impact of this project that the then CEO Eric Schmidt started highlighting Takeout to regulators and customers to build a strong case for Google's non-monopolistic practices and focus on user's privacy.

Image Source and Credits: https://www.etpowerofideas.com/
One of the things Brian Fitzpatrick did constantly was that he kept himself updated about organization's priorities and prevailing problems from the lens of CEO or high-flying execs. He apparently made note of what is being said in different public and internal forums and this helped shape his thinking around which "gaps" matter more. Every organizations have myriad of problems and we have limited time. It's only in our best interests that we use that time to solve the problems that matter to people who matter.

Being in touch with what CEO and the executive staff share in internal and external can be a great source for ideas. Like in case of Brian Fitzpatrick, one may not get the ideas on platter after hearing these conversations and it may require some processing and relating the words to your context and strengths to come up with something unique.

Most of the employees tend to give events like employee all-hands a pass but what they are really doing is depriving them of a chance to gain crucial insights that can lead to career defining ideas.

Be like Brian, be a better listener and change the world!!

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