I was sitting in a marketing class the other night listening to the professor go on and on about innovation and creativity. It’s a pretty popular topic in most of these classes and, while interesting, it can get a little old to hear about “the next big idea” or the “innovation cycle” for the hundredth time. Then, just as I was about to pull up my ESPN app so I could watch the Cyclone basketball game, he said something that caught my attention and kept it the rest of the night.
He was sharing a story about the loss of innovation, about those ideas that never see the light of day, the ideas that get hidden, lost, or simply die. “One of the biggest threats to innovation,” he explained, “is the average person’s fear to share his or her ideas.”
The lecture continued with the professor introducing the concept of the idea prison. The average person may have a great, world changing, idea but fear keeps those ideas locked inside their head. We don’t want to share our thoughts because we don’t want our ideas to be critiqued, to be judged, or to be torn apart. Instead of facing criticism we keep them locked up, safe and secure, inside our mind.
This is why having a network of trusted friends, colleagues, and mentors is an important part to the innovation cycle. We need that trusted circle so we can share ideas, get outside perspective, and help make our ideas better. Networking is a crucial part of innovation because no idea has ever been good enough to stand on its own. Every major innovation or creative moment takes a team of individuals to analyze, change, and see it through to completion.
The world is a different place than it was yesterday because of people taking the leap and sharing their ideas. Imagine what this world would look like if Henry Ford had kept the idea of the assembly line to himself or if Steve Jobs had decided that the iPhone was just another dumb idea. Don’t keep your ideas in prison. Find a trusted friend to share your thoughts, your dreams, and your world changing ideas with. Take the criticism and help to make those ideas better. Who knows, you may have the next ground breaking idea locked in your head right now. Let it out!