Great ideas take time to grow


There are lots of interesting provocations in Jimmy Soni's article about the greatest creative genius you've never heard of. It summarises some of the challenging principles followed by inventor Claude Shannon. 

Our favourite is number 6 - time is the soil in which great ideas grow. Shannon would patiently stick with ideas over years - so was also happy (Principle 5) to be ok with mess and chaos.

As facilitators, we're always under pressure to make things happen according to a schedule. It's as if all meetings must achieve concrete outcomes by 4pm or they are a waste of time. This often leads to lists of unremarkable actions that no one really cares about.

Great ideas run on their own schedules and we should be careful not to rush them.

Being a good facilitator means being willing to accept less certainty, and convey to participants that this is ok. To borrow one of our own principles, we constantly need to practice letting go of control and to model calm in the face of anxiety.

It's easy to cling to a familiar approach as a way of keeping worries at bay. Lots of facilitators say we need to "trust the process." But some of the most useful moments in meetings are when the unexpected happens and we are willing to let go of standard routines - and instead trust the people. We find they often generate something more effective out of a bit of mess than can happen with a set-piece approach.

Photo by Brandon Green on Unsplash