Be a Better Idea-Generator

Jim Kouzes

Q: I don't consider myself a very imaginative person, so how can I be a better idea-generator?

A: Many leaders struggle with feelings similar to yours, feeling that others are so much more creative and innovative than they are. But in reality, studies show that leaders are not necessarily any more or less creative, imaginative, insightful-or intelligent, for that matter-than any other group of people. What leaders do excel at is what my co-author, Barry Posner, and I call 'outsight'. This is the ability to look outside of yourself and your experiences. So I have a couple of suggestions for you:

  • Try looking in what may seem like strange places-places you would never expect to find fresh ideas and others who may have insight you never considered.
  • Listen to people who are not like you and who have had experiences that you have never had.
  • Take advantage of all of the ideas that already exist-out among your colleagues, your manager, your direct reports, and your professional or industry peers.

Gather together whatever you can find, sifting through the lot until you find one or adapt one to fit your particular challenges and opportunities.

Jim Kouzes cited by The Wall Street Journal as one of the twelve best executive educators in the U.S., is the Dean's Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. Together with Barry Posner, he is author of The Leadership Challenge and over a twenty other books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development.

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