It May Be a Good Idea

In the June 14, 2010 issue of Sports Illustrated, Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels is quoted describing the philosophy taught to him by his former boss, Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick:

“Ideas should be innocent until proven guilty.  Some people think ideas are guilty until proven innocent. You might suggest a play or an idea to a coach, and it gets shot down right away—like, ‘Your idea is no good because I didn’t think of it.’ But if you do that too often, people stop coming up with ideas. And then you might be shutting off the flow of pretty good thoughts, and you’re stunting everyone’s development. I don’t want to be dictating. I want to be having conversations.”

Those thoughts from a football coach provide good advice for managers in any business.  No manager (in fact, no individual) can (or should expect to) have all the ideas and all the answers.  Anyone who tries is limiting the effectiveness of his team.

In football coaching circles, Belichick has a reputation as a genius.  His Patriots teams won three Super Bowls in four years from 2001 to 2004.  Like most reputed “geniuses”, Belichick also has his detractors.

Whatever you think of Belichick, it’s clear that he’s been a successful mentor and has helped recognize and develop coaching talent.  Six of his assistant coaches (including McDaniels) have become NFL head coaches.  Another five of his assistants became head coaches at NCAA universities.  Clearly, Belichick has done a good job of identifying potential leaders and developing them to the point that other organizations were willing to offer them control of their teams.  I’m convinced that Belichick’s willingness to accept others’ ideas – to treat those ideas as “innocent” and worthy of hearing – has contributed to that success.

I do have to add a caveat to this theme – a thought that was clearly (and humorously) detailed in Morris Beton’s blog a few weeks ago.  His point is clear: “Most ideas are bad.”   He elaborates with: “Even fewer are commercially viable, so just because someone in authority or with great credentials comes up with some invention or great idea or some excellent way of doing or creating something, don’t just assume it will fly. It probably won’t.”

I encourage you to read Morris’s full blog post on this subject.

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

Allow new ideas to be considered, regardless of whether they are your ideas.
In fact, give them attention especially when they come from someone else.

But don’t be fooled—those new ideas might still be bad ideas.

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