One of the characteristics of a great leader is they reach beyond the status quo and champion big ideas. This can be difficult because many organizations are risk adverse and opt for the easiest, safest way of doing things. While big ideas may seem risky, they have the potential to create a big impact. Roger Enrico, former Chairman of PepsiCo and DreamWorks Animation, once said:
By definition, small changes to small things are a waste of time. But small changes to big things are even worse. They’re dangerous…because they create the illusion of progress. Making big changes to small things are great. But making big changes to big things…now that builds the future. Beware of the tyranny of making small changes to small things. Rather, make big changes to big things.”
Which camp does your organization fall into? Small changes to small things? Or big changes to big things? Without challenge or change, employees often settle for marginal or incremental improvement to their products and services. A leader has the power to change this behavior by role modeling and encouraging others push past the ordinary. This starts by helping them suspend their judgment of what is possible.
There are two critical questions to help leaders and their teams champion big ideas:
What if? and How might we?
For example, Gregg Dedrick, Former President of KFC, knew that his brand had an affordability issue that prevented people from coming more frequently. He asked the team, “What if we could offer a high-quality sandwich at an everyday affordable price?” Everyone agreed that it would be a game changer, but no one thought it was possible.
Then he challenged the team with the question, “How might we make that happen?” Rising to the challenge, his team figured out how to accomplish the impossible and launched the KFC Snacker, driving record sales at the time.
Remember, the leader doesn’t have to come up with the big idea. They just need to challenge others to consider the two questions What if? and How might we? Involving others in the process will give them ownership and inspire them to make the impossible happen.
When will you start asking the game changing questions to initiate big changes that lead to big things? It takes courage and a willingness to learn as you go, and possibly fail. But imagine the transformation you can unleash by challenging your team and yourself to think outside the box and believe change is possible.
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