Do you ever find yourself glazing over when a young person, maybe an intern, starts waxing on about some new marketing concept or spewing forth a string of crazy ideas on how the website could be improved? You know all about it right? You’ve “tried that before” and “it doesn’t work” so they “can’t do it that way”. A condescending smile and the conversation is over, the intern shrugs and gives up. Everyone goes back to their boxes and business knee-jerks along as usual.
You’ve just missed out on a great opportunity. Stop and think back. If you’re over 40 and successful, chances are you once had a crazy idea yourself. You probably also had a manager somewhere along the line who told you “Hmmm. Interesting. Go make it happen.” After a few disasters, you started getting it right and your company reaped the benefits.
What may seem to you like childish, idealistic suggestions are in reality the fragile roots of strong, creative revenue-generating ideas. Cutting them off will only achieve the following:
- Suffocate fresh ideas
- Alienate young team members who will leave
- Cultivate a culture of “yes men/women”
- Stifle growth
- Make the company less competitive
- Make yourself tired, old and irrelevant
Instead, try the following, next time you are lucky enough to work with a young, enthusiastic marketer full of ideas.
Stop. Bite your tongue. Give them your undivided attention and listen. Then, when they have finished, have them do the following:
- Write out their ideas
- Take the top 2-3 (defined by them) and expand on them
- Rough ROI (numbers are best, at minimum identify how they meet the department/company goals)
- Short execution plan with timetable
- Budget and resources needed
- Set a day/time to present it to you and another senior manager
- Note, you’re not looking for War and Peace; a few pages or PowerPoint slides will do. Enough to be able to evaluate each idea in context with the goals of the company.
What this accomplishes:
- Tells them you take their ideas (and them) seriously
- Encourages them to articulate and clarify their thoughts in writing
- Lets them (not you) eliminate the really “crazy” ideas
- Teaches them how to convert good “ideas” into revenue generating plans for company
- Gives them visibility among senior management and credit for the idea
- Builds mature management skills (theirs and yours!)
Companies cannot grow without fresh input, especially in today’s world. Young people have so much to contribute. Acknowledge that, don’t squelch it. By changing the way you respond to their ideas, you will start to build a culture that will stimulate the kind of creative thinking that gets results. As a side benefit, you’ll go a long ways towards establishing a loyal and secure team who will remember you as a great mentor and maybe even be referred to as a visionary.
So bite your tongue and cultivate those crazy ideas!