Two people are talking about someone….

The first says:

Why would that guy/girl devote 3 years to produce [insert random project name]? What’s the return on that investment?

The second asks:

What’s the return on investment of a newborn baby?

Not everything that matters can be effectively measured. One of the areas that existing measures of success struggle with is something completely new, or measuring meaning and satisfaction.  This problem is discussed in  ‘The Lean Start Up.’  Being asked to measure success, or develop a measurement system, too early on a creative or innovative initiative can stop it from happening at all.  Galway’s own Kevin Kelly describes how this quest for hard measurement can be used by people to kill ideas.

Why do people kill ideas?

The neuroscience based SCARF model by David Rock highlights that threats to our status in a social group causes our amygdala in the brain to trigger shutting down our neocortex where creative and visual thinking takes place.

Threat to status

For people occupying a position of power in the status quo, their status is BECAUSE of the status quo.  Threatening the status quo, threatens their position or status makes it hard to embrace the new.

This emotional threat can cause these people to reach for what they alreasy know (often existing measurement systems – ROI, Statistical analysis, market data etc), and then try and put the new idea in that existing box.

This dooms either the idea OR them to failure (though they often don’t see the risk of doing nothing).  As Henry Ford said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”  If you owned a lot of horses and decided not to change, you were in trouble.

For people trying something new, their status will come from CHANGES TO the status quo. This makes it easier to embrace the new, and although risk still exists, it’s their baby.

Getting your ideas over the line

If you try something new, you will threaten someone, just by trying it.  It doesn’t necessarily mean they are right if they criticize, they might just be threatened.

Don’t take the quest for measurements, or critical judgement of others personally, or as the final say. They might inadvertently be bringing you some gifts of how you can bring your idea into reality. For example, a question like, “Have you calculated the market demand for this?”  Might hide a gift – Maybe you need to.

Reassuring people that THEIR status, and the status quo are different, and working to reassure them about THEIR future can help you get the idea over the line.  And when times get tough, there is nothing like seeing YOUR newborn baby…

What do you think?

(with thanks to Milton Erickson)