November 12, 2022

Helping raise a brain child that’s not your baby


Prolific team members are skilled at executing other people’s ideas as well as their own.

That’s one of the key ways they deploy their talent across the broader organization. They don’t have to be the creative originator, they just have to spread the executional love around to create a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Now, in any given team, there will be a few ways this process can play out.

One is when a person has an idea, but doesn’t know what the first step is. That sounds like a job for a personal creativity management tool called the starting block.

It’s a framework to help teams adopt a more efficient starting posture and preload their creative brains in an enhanced manner.

When I worked at an advertising agency, we developed a simple online form people could fill out to flesh out their early stage ideas. More than a creative brief but less than a brainstorming session, it was particularly helpful for younger or less experienced team members.

If you need to feel less threatened in their ideation process, the starting block helps your idea get off to the races.

Here’s another scenario of executing other people’s ideas instead of your own.

Say you have a coworker who’s been writing the press release for a product launch. They’ve done the majority of the work, but now that launch is around the corner, they’re stuck.

This moment happens all the time in companies of all sizes. The closer they are to shipping, the greater the resistance is. Deadlines quickly approach, and people get cold feet. Or they get creative vertigo from staring at their own ideas for too long, and can’t tell right from wrong anymore.

This is when the tool called finish lining is useful.

As an objective outsider, your job is to observe and avoid whatever opposes or weakens forward motion in the final hour. When somebody on the team asks you for help, tell them you’d be happy to do it, but with one caveat.

They have to put an embargo on outside input once you’re done reviewing it.

This will be the last lap around feedback park, then it’s time to publish.

Take my word for it, this executional commitment will bring your team profound relief. They’ll be so grateful to have someone like you that can run the final mile in the race and get the damn thing across the finish line.

What’s important to know about both of the execution tools mentioned here, starting block and finish lining, is that they require deep humility.

Because these aren’t your ideas. People are not likely to give you credit for their success.

Sure, somebody might give you shout out for the assist, but ultimately, this is not your baby. And that’s okay, because you will have earned something more valuable than credit.

Trust. Your coworkers will know they can approach you for help on any of their executional challenges in the future.

Companies tend to keep employees like that around for a long time.

How are you deploying your talent across the broader organization?