Ideaship: How to Get Ideas Flowing in Your Workplace

Ideaship: How to Get Ideas Flowing in Your Workplace

by Jack Foster, Larry Corby

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Innovative, original ideas are a company's most powerful competitive advantage. Nathan Mhyrvold, former chief technology officer at Microsoft, has said that a great employee is worth 1,000 times more than an average one simply because of his or her ideas. In Ideaship, the sequel to his bestselling book, How to Get Ideas, Jack Foster shifts from how individuals spark their new ideas to how to unleash the creative genius of an entire organization. To create an idea-prone workforce, Foster proposes a totally new concept of leadership: "ideaship." Leaders shouldn't be spending their time obsessing over profits or sales or quality or service. Instead, they should devote most of their energies to making the office a place where creative ideas flow, where the workforce truly believes in its ability to brilliantly solve any problem put before it. Above all, where it's fun to work. With energy and humor, Foster draws on over thirty-five years as creative director of major advertising agencies-organizations whose only purpose is to constantly generate ideas-to offer dozens of fun, fast, often surprising nuggets of practical advice on how to create an environment where innovation and fresh thinking thrive. He reveals why you should only hire people you like, insist employees take vacations whether they want to or not, why efficiency is sometimes inefficient, and how sometimes you can accomplish more by playing the fool instead of the capital L "Leader." Ideaship spells out proven ways to encourage creativity, simply and clearly and cogently, without a lot of charts and graphs and formulas and acronyms and statistics and fillers. It flips traditional leadership on its head and shows how simple acts of compassion, trust, and generosity of spirit, as well as some seemingly zany actions, can unleash unexpected, vital bursts of creativity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609943585
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 01/01/1995
Series: 0
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 92
Sales rank: 1,046,252
File size: 1 MB

Read an Excerpt


I spent half my life in advertising. Half of that time I ran creative departments in advertising agencies, half in creative departments run by others.

I was telling a client of mine one day about the difficulties of running such a department, a department that is — by definition and design — a collection of misfits and free spirits, of original thinkers, of people who resist authority and reject dogma; and whose strength is their ability to discover — on command — fresh solutions to a variety of problems.

He thought about it for a while, and then he said: “Running a creative department is not a do-able job. Any attempt to direct or lead or run people who are like that will be counter-productive. They'll rebel. Or they'll clam up.”

Perhaps he was right.

But that's because we were using the wrong words. “Direct” or “lead” or “run” don't describe what I, and many like me, did.

We didn't direct or lead or run our departments. We ideaized them.

We weren't leaders. We were ideaists.

And the art form we practiced was not leadership. It was ideaship.

Henry Miller once wrote: “No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.”3

A leader motivates and directs and runs and guides and leads. An ideaist restores.

A leader leads. An ideaist ideaizes.

In short, ideaship is a step beyond leadership, for an ideaist does more than lead — he or she restores to people their belief in their own guidance.

Another client of mine maintained that creative departments are so atypical that any lessons learned there about leadership (I hadn't yet coined the word ideaship) are not applicable to other groups of people in other kinds of organizations.


The creative people in advertising agencies don't have a patent on getting ideas. Everyday, the people you work with probably come up with dozens of ideas, from how to get to work quicker to how to stretch their lunch hours, from how to make deliveries faster to how to write memos better, from how to jazz up a sales meeting to how to speed up a production line.

So we know they can come up with ideas. And if you want them to come up with more and better ideas and with more original thinking and innovative approaches and fresh solutions, then an advertising agency creative department is far from some weird model that only a gull would emulate.

Rather, the reverse is true: It is a paragon for your organization, and the lessons learned there are a guide for you.

* * * * * *

What follows then are some of the things I think I've learned and some of the conclusions I've drawn about ideaship from thirty-five years experience in advertising agency creative departments.

Table of Contents

Part I What Is Ideaship?

Part II How Do You Become an Ideaist?
1. You help people think better of themselves
2. You help create an environment that's fun

Part III Sixteen Personal Things You Can Do
1. Follow the golden rule
2. Care about the people you work with
3. Remember that they work with you, not for you
4. Make sure they like you
5. Take the blame, give the praise away
6. Hire only people you like
7. Trust them
8. Praise their efforts
9. Allow them the freedom to fail
10. Help them achieve their goals
11. Never lie about anything important
12. Show some enthusiasm
13. Ask them to help you
14. Get rid of the word “I”
15. Play the fool
16. Have fun yourself.

Part IV Seven Organizational Things You Can Do
1. Cut down on approvals
2. Make everybody an owner
3. Give them what they need
4. Keep it small
5. Tell them everything about their company
6. Shun rules
7. Pay for their education

Part V Eighteen Strategic Things You Can Do
1. Don't ask for one solution — Ask for many
2. Make their jobs seem easy
3. Don't reject ideas — Ask for more
4. Give them more than one problem at a time
5. Ask for more ideas, sooner
6. If it isn't working, change it
7. Let them solo
8. Let them do it their way
9. Make sure the problem is the problem
10. Let them shine
11. Be wary of fear
12. Make it Us vs Them, not Us vs Us
13. Share what everybody does
14. Share experiences
15. Search for ways to create fun
16. Insist on vacations
17. Let them vacation when they want to vacation
18. Forget about efficiency, care about the idea
What Should You Do Next?
About the Author
About the Illustrator

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