Just to get “the big idea” out up front here, there are typically two reasons a boss ignores an idea →
- They have a very set way of doing things and your idea does not fit into that.
- They have no organizational authority to do anything about the idea, hence they ignore it rather than trying to help you get it up the chain and have two people (you and them) feel shitty about lack of impact in the business.
Of those two, we tend to discuss №1 about 90 percent of the time, often in the vein of “Managers are so clueless! They don’t even know how great my idea is!”
It’s a much more nuanced problem than that.
Some research on this
We found that managers face two distinct hurdles: They are not empowered to act on input from below, and they feel compelled to adopt a short-term outlook to work.
Harvard Business Review
The “7–10 guys” problem
In most organizations, there are maybe 7–10 guys — still mostly men, sadly — who can do anything in terms of true decision-making. Some other people might run silos or own P&L, but by and large these 7–10 people drive everything going on. Nothing major will happen unless one of them sees it or approves it. This is just reality.
Unless you are one of those 7–10 people, or unless you have a pipeline directly to those 7–10 people, pretty much there is no way to vet new ideas. You have no power to do anything about them, honestly. This is called the “key stakeholders” problem of work.
A big reason why people end up disliking their jobs is tied to this: anthropologically, we shouldn’t be working in the hierarchy models we work within, because now your boss represents you at his/her level, and two levels above you is now a representation of you, but increasingly the gap between “your ideas” and “their thinking about your ideas” gets wider and wider. It’s a tough slog. No wonder a lot of people dislike their jobs, ya know?
A little more on ideas
Ideas are everything. You can argue it’s akin to modern currency, just not in a physical state. And yet, for how important they are, we don’t discuss them very well. Here’s a few different concepts and, well, ideas about ideas:
- How to get better at vetting ideas at work
- You arrive at better ideas by lessening your own ego
- How to foster trust in new ideas
- Why don’t more workplaces try to share ideas?
- Most ideas at work start from a place of caring
- Embrace the foolish ideas!
- What about asking better questions as a strategy for building teams?
- Kill off some of your good ideas (honestly)
- Be comfortable with ideas opposite your own
- Hey Mr. Manager, good ideas can come from anywhere
Hopefully that’s a start.
Now I’d ask you: when a manager ignores an idea of yours almost completely, what’s your theory as to why that happens?