Did you ever see the movie Night Shift? Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton work the overnight shift at a morgue. Keaton is a hustler, constantly coming up with get-rich-quick schemes and recording them on cassette. At one point, he says to Winkler: “I'm an idea man, Chuck. I get ideas; sometimes I get so many ideas that I can't even fight them off!…Wait a minute! Why don't they just mix the mayonnaise with the tuna in the can...HOLD THE PHONE! Why don't they just FEED the tuna fish mayonnaise?!” He turns on his tape recorder and says, “Call StarKist.”
The joke is that Keaton’s character has plenty of ideas, but most of them are terrible, wildly impractical ideas. All the same, I’m sure there’s a little bit of him in all of us. If you’re like me, you’ve got a number of ideas kicking around in your head that you’re afraid to try. Most of them are probably no good, but perhaps one or two would work if you gave them a chance. Call them your “crazy ideas.”
I’m going to tell you about some of my crazy ideas. I’ll explain why each one intrigues me. I’ll also tell you why I haven’t really tried to act on them. Maybe they’d work for you, or at least trigger your thinking to come up with better ideas. Finally, I’d like to hear from you about your own crazy ideas.
Bring on the untested ideas
As I said, some of these are ideas I’ve been kicking around for quite some time. Others are ideas I’ve read or heard about but haven’t tried myself. Here they are, in no particular order:
- Rating the meeting organizer: We all spend way too much time in meetings, and if you’re like me, you have to endure a lot of pointless, poorly organized, and poorly run meetings. What if your organization provided an incentive for meeting organizers to prepare in advance and keep the meeting focused? The participants could rate the organizer at the end of each meeting, and the information could be used during reviews. While I like the thrust of this idea, I’ve never implemented it because I worry about drowning in administrative detail, given the number of meetings we have around here.
- The “no-chairs” meeting room: You’ve probably all heard about this one. Evidently, some companies cut down on meeting times by removing all the chairs from their meeting rooms. You want to call a meeting? No problem—but you’ll have to stand up. It should cut down on the number and length of meetings. I’ve never tried it, for two reasons. First, you’d need to raise the height of your conference tables. Second, I’d feel more than a little ridiculous in a roomful of my peers, standing around a conference table. (By the way, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s actually tried this. Post a comment to this article, and tell us how it worked.)
- Adding 20 percent to any project timeline: This idea is pretty simple: Just add 20 percent in your head to any timeline you’re given. Not counting on a date that you’re not going to hit could save a lot of heartache down the road. In effect, you’re saying: I know we’re going to run into problems. I don’t know where or when we’ll hit them, but it will happen.
- Subtracting 20 percent from any project timeline: This is the flipside of the previous idea. Rather than padding a proposed timeline, this idea assumes that your project manager has already padded the timeline. It’s saying: If we really wanted to crank this out, I’m sure we could do it a lot faster.
- Rotating jobs among managers: In the armed forces, and in some large corporations like General Electric, managers rotate in and out of assignments on a regular basis—often in stints of one or two years. In a time when payroll growth has slowed (to put it mildly) and managers see fewer immediate opportunities for advancement, rotating managerial assignments could be a good way to offer career development. It could also help keep teams fresh by providing new insights and breaking down the inertia that sets in whenever a group stays the same too long. I’ve been reluctant to try this since some managerial positions seem to require skill sets that not everyone has.
- The 75 percent counteroffer: If you assume that vendors will attempt to maximize their profit, this idea says that no matter what a vendor proposes, counter by offering to pay 75 percent of the asking price. (This also assumes, of course, that you want to do business with the vendor in question.) Most of us don’t like to haggle. Worse, most of us aren’t very good at it. This idea makes it easier by giving you a quick way to counter.
- Go with your gut: This isn’t a crazy idea so much as an observation. As I get older, I find that when I first face a problem or a decision, I have a gut reaction that tells me which way to go. I always fight that instinct; agreeing with the saying, “Decide in haste, repent at leisure.” Therefore, I spend a lot of time thoroughly considering all aspects of the problem. In the end, I often end up exactly where I started. Of course, this makes me feel better about the decision, but it takes a lot of time and effort that could be spent on other things. What if I trusted my instincts more often, and just went with my gut?
Well, there you have it—some of my crazy ideas. I’d really like to hear from you about this. Post a comment to this article, and let me know what you think. Even better, post some of your own crazy ideas.