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Give it 5 minutes

Most good ideas start as bad ideas, or at least start off sounding like bad ideas.

I recently came across this article: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3124-give-it-five-minutes

(I discovered it thanks to Ivan Mazour’s very amusing and appropriate use of the link above to respond to an instantaneous aggressive response to his blog post about banning incoming calls)

The basic principle is that when you hear an idea you should give it the respect of thinking about it properly before pushing back.

But chance are, the person who has put the idea to you has been thinking about it for a long time…

It’s a bit like this in management. Much of management is about making decisions/giving feedback on things in 1-10 minutes – specifically things that other people have been spending hours, days, weeks, even months thinking about. If your team is to be successful, I think you should, as a manager, remember that there is usually a massive qualitative difference between an instant decision/giving instant feedback vs giving it a little more thought (whether that is 5 minutes or more, proportional to the size of the decision). This may sound trivial, but I know of lots of people who either do this badly or who are on the receiving end of a manager who does this badly.

When people talk to me about an idea for a business or project, I always listen assuming it will be a good idea. My initial reaction is almost always “This is a bit rubbish”. But I never say that (mainly because I’m not a ****), even though it would often be easier than listening and discussing and trying to understand.

But starting from the assumption that it must be a good idea at least in some ways (otherwise they wouldn’t be excited about it) makes it much easier for me to ask the right questions and dig around until I understand the key thoughts that have got the idea to this point.

So – give it 5 minutes!