We’ve all been there: you have a great idea and want to know how to make it happen. The first four people it is proposed to respond with “I love this! But first please read this 1,000 word essay on why you don’t understand how busy I am.”

Chances are, the person with the great idea is also really busy, and in fact understands that you are also really busy. So unless she said “here’s a great idea, implement it without me” then what she’s asking is “here’s a great idea, how can we make this happen.”

Here’s how to make it happen:

Do

Pay attention
Read the email carefully; listen to the speaker. Don’t assume that you will have to do this. Assume that if a way can be found, this is a good idea.

Make suggestions
Pick out the parts of the idea where you have knowledge, time, expertise or an idea of where to find those things.

Ask questions
Pick the idea apart. Would this work if it was implemented in some other way? What parts of the idea are redundant or useless? How effective would full implementation be? What is the outcome if we stick with the status quo (i.e. do nothing). It’s likely that the person proposing the idea wants this feedback. Right now, it’s just an idea. Help them figure out if it’s a good one.

Don’t

Be defensive
Not only is this unproductive, it’s insulting. You are saying that the person generating the idea is completely lacking in empathy, if not intelligence. Trust me, he knows that you have a full time job, no assistant, a volunteer commitment to house the homeless, and three toddlers at home.

Pass the buck
The first question (see above) should not be “who is going to do this” (in other words, “who, that is not me, is going to do this”). The first question is “if this is a good idea, what’s the best way to implement it that doesn’t cause an unsustainable workload for someone.”

Make assumptions
Ideas are just that– ideas. Let them percolate before you assume that you’re on the hook for getting it done.

Let’s go back to Do
Remember the goal, which is an effective program, project, operation or organization. If an idea really has merit, find a way to do it.

How do you react to new ideas?

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