What Do You Do With An Idea is a brilliant picture book by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom, that many of us know and love. It has an inspirational message that all creators, makers, dreamers, and children’s librarians alike can appreciate: Hold tight to your ideas and see them become reality.
We all know that when we have an idea we need to consider it precious and valuable, but what if the idea is not your own? What do you do with an idea if you are a manager, or anyone else within a library, who has the power to help turn dreams into reality? How do we give meaning to the ideas of other people, while still upholding our jobs as a manager? It is a tight-rope walk between two vastly different terrains, but it is possible to achieve.
We all know that feeling. Someone is sitting in your office and they are bursting with excitement about some new idea/project/collection/program they want to do. Instantly our mind can go to a few places.
- This is way too much work.
- We’ve tried to do this before and it didn’t work.
- This person has had too much caffeine and they are on a different level than I am.
Those things might be our immediate response, but as a manager it is critical we take a step back and approach things a little bit differently. Here is what I’ve found to work when I am approached with an idea.
- Say yes. I know this sounds crazy. What if the idea is really big? What if they don’t have time to pull it off? What if the idea is really crazy? As long as the idea falls within their job scope, I suggest you start by saying yes. I’ve been inspired with the philosophy behind the book, The Answer to How is Yes. You start by saying yes, you show a dedication to their idea, and then you work out the details.
- After saying yes you clarify what they see your role being. This is as important for a manager as it is a staff member. “What do you need from me?” and “When do you need it by?” are key questions to ask. You won’t necessarily be able to commit to their needs, but it is the starting point for a conversation.
- Last, you shape the parameters of the idea. If number one made you really nervous, number three should help you feel better. Just by saying yes it doesn’t mean that you have to turn the library into a circus in three weeks (although I think Children’s Librarians could pull it off). At this point you can offer suggestions about a timeline, about scaling the idea, and advice for who can help them pull the miraculous feat off.
With these three easy steps, managers can make sure that they are approachable and open to the ideas of others, while still maintaining their job role and supporting their staff members. It is important that managers are interested in ideas, and treat them carefully, after all the picture book that inspired this post will tell us:
“And then, I realized what you do with an idea… You change the world.”