Fleas in a Jar

Fleas in a Jar

Have you ever tried to put fleas in a jar? One of these days I am going to ask an audience that question and someone is going to say yes, but it has not happened yet. If you put fleas in a jar they will jump out the top, so to keep them in the jar you need to secure a lid. Then the fleas will jump up and hit their heads on the lid, once, maybe twice, but quickly they learn to jump just below the level of the lid. Soon you can remove the lid and the fleas will not jump out the top because they have been conditioned.

Why do I use this analogy? …Because people are similar!

When someone with new ideas or questions is met with immediate resistance, that person will soon stop bringing ideas forward. People become conditioned very quickly to believing their comments or new ideas are not welcome. No one wants to bang against any hard or immovable object.

Conditioning can happen quickly with new people who are naturally excited and inquisitive about their surroundings. They are the people who, upon joining a group, ask questions that those who have been there for years don’t ever contemplate. That’s one of the reasons why new members of an organization can be so important.

It’s easy for someone to respond in a negative way to a new idea or question.

  • That will cost too much money.
  • It won’t work.
  • We’ve tried that before.
  • We’ve never done it that way or we’ve always done it this way.
  • The expense is not in the budget.
  • The last guy to come up with an idea like that was sent packing! (comic relief)

Do any of these statements sound familiar? Note that a money-related reason made the list twice since a lack of money is the easiest reason to shoot down a new idea. The list of reasons not to do something can be very long indeed.

If the culture of your organization is one that does not welcome questions or new ideas, you are missing out on opportunities. Few, if any, can afford to do business as usual year after year, decade after decade, without exploring new ideas and options.

Of course, not every idea is doable, but almost every idea is worth considering or exploring. Just because an idea didn’t work five years ago does not mean it won’t work now. Famous author and poet, Victor Hugo, is quoted as saying, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” I concur wholeheartedly.

Numerous times in my life, a marketing or sales initiative that was initially unsuccessful, tried again at a different time or place exceeded expectations.

Sometimes an idea might appear to be too expensive but instead of discarding it, it should be explored to determine if it could be altered to be less expensive, perhaps co-sponsored by a supplier or some other organization, or combined with another project.

In order to build a positive environment, you do not have to implement every new idea that comes along. As long as ideas are openly explored and considered, people feel valued and taken seriously. That encourages the creative juices to keep flowing and more ideas will follow. Everyone in such an environment is more engaged.

Check out your organization. Are you or anyone else placing lids on jars? What can you do about that?


John Hindle, The Contact Hitter


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