Nurturing ideas?

I’m just chucking a few small specks of mud at a very big wall here. These loosely related thoughts are on my mind this afternoon.

At the end of a group the other day I asked everyone to sum up their experience in about a dozen words. (The day had been spent on an innovation project.)

I was struck by the healthy diversity of responses and enthusiasms, the light and shade in each participant’s short statement. Also throughout the day, I’d been sensing that people were sometimes negating the ideas of others with comments like “It’s been done before”; “You’d not get funding for that” etc. Can’t blame them; there’s a reality in organisations that ideas have a tough childhood and very few make it out of nappies.

My few words were “It’s easy to have ideas. It’s easy to kill ideas. It’s important to nurture them”. And I’ve been thinking about nurture a lot since then.

Someone told me today of a study in Sweden which showed that some babies’ wiggle their fingers playfully in the amniotic fluid during pregnancy. But other babies clench them tight. And there was a correlation suggesting that the mothers of the tight-fingered babies were more likely to be experiencing abuse in the home. It took my breath away to be reminded how intimately we affect each other, and how sensitive we humans really are. How we nurture, or fail to nurture, each other can have profound consequences.

Then I went and googled “evaluate ideas” and turned up 42,400 entries. Then I tried “nurture ideas” and turned up….5,920.

I’m left reflecting further on what a nurturing mindset for ideas would look and feel like, and how we might try to keep language about business cases and deliverables out of the nursery a bit longer.

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