Negotiating Your Big Ideas

You've got an idea that's been keeping you up at night. It's such a great idea you know it would solve a big problem or put legs on a stalled initiative or project. Or maybe it's a book you can see whole from beginning to end.

You are an idea factory. You not only see the big picture, but the details needed to execute.

In your enthusiasm you map it out, scribble out a rough plan and present it to your boss or partner or client or friend. And then you hear something like:

  • We've already tried that.

  • We don't have the resources.

  • It doesn't really fit our brand or culture.

  • I don't get it.

Maybe you chide yourself for sharing too early. So you reel the idea back in and hold fast to it. You put it back in the idea closet so it doesn't dissipate further.

That's understandable. But good ideas need to be negotiated and nurtured in the light of day. I've worked with actors, authors, consultants, architects and even doctors who implemented brilliant ideas and projects and they all share a few behaviors in common. Here's what they would tell you:

Brainstorm with people who share your creative DNA. You know who they are-people who think expansively and with vision and enjoy the process of invention more than being the inventor.

Let it breathe. Putting bones on an idea takes air, light, possibility and freedom before it needs structure.

Understand the world of your idea. Research. Find similar projects and common threads to test and poke holes in the sturdiness of your ideas, but most importantly, to iterate them, not flatten them.

Enroll, don't sell. When presenting your ideas, you want your idea partner to see possibility for herself and invest in your idea--so that she can turn around and enroll others. If you want your conversation partner to step into your vision, engage them with open-ended questions so they can co-create with you.

Give it away. The actor/director Konstantin Stanislavsky famously said, "love art in yourself, not yourself in art." Giving your ideas away is about letting go so that others can feel free to improvise on your theme, add to it and move it forward.

I understand the need to protect your intellectual property, and wanting to get credit or compensation for having the killer idea. I also understand wanting to have some control over the development and implementation of your idea so that your vision stays true to the end. But giving it away is really about developing the habit of collaboration, and believing that your last good idea is not your last good idea.