Hatching Ideas: Are Your Ducks in a Row?

By Andrew Jennings, CCO – We have all heard the expression “Having your ducks in a row.” Typically, the phrase is used to signify that everything is in order. This is imperative when finalizing the output of an initiative, whether it be a business development presentation, a new product roll-out, a board presentation, financial reporting, or any number of critical business activities you might be involved with. We don’t necessarily think in terms of being creative or “hatching ideas.”

However, the process of getting to this point can be chaotic, just like any good creative process. This is the time that trust and clarity among peers allows for the difficult and often awkward conversations that lead to better outcomes, and ultimately higher productivity. How does a leader develop the skills to be “chief duck herder” and ensure that everything is aligned to the expected outcome, while allowing creative “out of the box” thinking?


Hatching Ideas Isn’t Easy

Someone once shared a visual with me that I found incredibly useful, imagine a square inside a circle:
Now, think back to another well used phrase in business that speaks to creativity; “Think outside the box!” Typically, people know what this means, but find it very difficult to do because they have questions, How far outside the box? How big is the box? What on earth is all this talk about a box?” So, what happens to the new creative ideas? They tend to get stifled before they begin through fear created by a lack of clarity. Back to the image above, the square represents the box that you would like your team to think outside of, whereas the circle represents the organizational limits, things like, money, time, people etc. But more importantly, your Vision.

The job of a leader in this type of situation is to “draw the circle” for their team. This way, the team knows if there are any limits to their creative thinking, allowing them to release those great ideas without fear that they will be unsupported or misaligned to the organization’s objectives. What we do know through physiological research is that creative thinking is diminished significantly if a person is under extreme stress or experiencing fear. So your job as a leader is to release that burden on the team . . . to allow them the space to create―to get busy hatching ideas.

Lining Up Your Ducks

“Now what does all this have to do with ducks?” I hear you asking. Quite simply, try not to worry about having your ducks in a row too early. Instead, strive to have all your ducks in the same pond, but swimming freely and creatively. Think of the circle mentioned above as the pond. Your job is to create a pond that will encourage the best ideas from your team.

With strong team members, clear vision, and direction all those ducks will line up beautifully, when the time is right.

Try this on your next new initiative. You might be surprised just how creative your team can be and how effective they can be at hatching ideas. Plus, it will take a huge burden off you as a leader, allowing you to be the guide rather than the herder.