YOUR GREAT IDEAS: How are they doing?

Istock-womanthumbsdown2 If we traced the path of GREAT IDEAS in the finest of organizations, we would probably all be astounded at the rate at which NEW THINKING is unintentionally squelched, squashed, smashed, stifled, smothered, misunderstood, ridiculed or just ignored.

Ever had this experience?
Ever felt like this woman looks?


This is what I wrote in an article a few years back. Around the same time, I was invited to speak at an ONLINE leadership forum with a focus on How to Get Buy-In for New Ideas. Over 550 leaders and innovators showed up to explore this topic, representing twenty countries. They came from major companies from every industry, as well as entrepreneurs, government, military, education, health care, and community organizations. I discovered the group was a cross section of CEOs and senior leaders, managers of every type, as well as educators, business owners, ministers, and consultants. Imagine all this diverse talent coming together, peer to peer, meeting on common ground, because they were brimming with NEW IDEAS to bring to their respective organizations. Following the online session, I conducted some follow-on dialogues. Three key themes were identified as BIG BARRIERS standing the the way of introducing the participants’ NEW IDEAS:

  • Culture isn’t open to new ideas.Resistance to change. There is a lack of interest in change and innovation. Everyone sees the need; no one wants to take the risk. New approaches aren’t welcomed.
  • Gender, race, and age still play a role in acceptance of new ideas in our organization. If you think differently or ask too many questions, it leads to losing the respect of senior leaders.
  • Senior leaders/managers take ideas and present them as their own. The focus from our leaders is on execution of strategy; they’ve forgotten people are leading it for them. It would be great if they showed more interest in what people have to say.

This begs a question…
What are the chances that you or other leaders in your organization might be leaving similar impressions about sharing NEW IDEAS? No one would purposely want to have members of their teams or constituents thinking this way. But perception is everything and this kind of breakdown in communication isn’t uncommon. It erodes trust and impacts all organizations ability to put differences to work to generate new thinking, creativity, and INNOVATION. At this time in our history, we can’t afford it. Too much is at stake.


What is alarming is that this reality doesn’t seem to change — at least in the perception of many of those with the GREAT IDEAS. I remember these same barriers coming up now and then throughout my career too. Last week, I partnered up with futurist and filmmaker Joel Barker to teach a professional development class on this topic. It focused on examining resistance to change, providing detailed guidelines, examples, and a step-by-step process that demonstrates how to get ideas accepted. Interestingly, we again discovered a similar result in a poll we took. A new issue did surface — 23% identified “information overload  breaking through the noise as a major barrier. However, a whopping 84% brought up issues similar to those noted above as standing in their way of introducing and seeding NEW IDEAS in their organizations.


Even before my time at IBM circa 1969, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., wrote in one of his well-known Management Briefings: “There’s an old saying that when you talk — you teach, when you listen — you learn. There are a lot of ideas worth listening to in this company. Let’s be sure we’re paying attention — we are never so rich in ideas that we can afford not to…”  It should be noted that this quote was preceded by him sharing a personal leadership story where he hadn’t listened to an employee’s idea to solve a critical business problem. “…Because I was frustrated and tired, I gave [the employee] a short interview and a non-sympathetic rebuff. …Later that evening, I began to worry about the area which he had pointed out, and by morning, I realized that at least constructive and appropriate attention to his idea was the minimum he should expect from me.” Hmmm…Big leadership at work!


What about YOU?

What is the #1 ISSUE you face when it comes to introducing NEW IDEAS?(answers)

For those of you who never have this kind of experience…
What best practice can you share to help others who do?


I look forward to listening your points of view…






A-DK-SEPT17-1Debbe Kennedy
Contributing author
Greater IBM Connection Blog
Co-Founder, GIBM Women’s
International Network for

Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and
Leadership Solutions Companies
Putting Our Differences to Work
The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, and High Performance
IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco
Twitter:@debbekennedy   @onlinedialogues

Small Change Leads to BIG CHANGE – IBM Corporate Service Corps in Emerging Markets

IBMGhanaSlideshowAfter another disappointing week of streaming news about bailouts and leadership decisions flashed in front of us that are painful symptoms of so much that MUST change, I was moved by the corresponding good news headline:

IBM Selects 200 New Global Leaders for the Corporate Service Corps to Tackle Socioeconomic Problems in Key Emerging Markets

The story reads: “Two hundred of IBM’s future leaders from nearly 40 countries will participate for international assignments to emerging markets in 2009 as part of the company’s Corporate Service Corps program, part of the Global Citizen’s Portfolio initiative announced by CEO Sam Palmisano.”

What made this good news so meaningful was the slideshow story told by Charlie Ung, 8-year IBMer from Canada about his four week experience traveling to Accra in Ghana, West Africa. It says more than any words I could write:

What I’ve always loved about IBM remains the same.
They do stuff. They inspire us to do it too. They are on it. Not perfect perhaps, but like everything else, in its cracks, new LIGHT emerges always moving to something higher. Sam Palmisano made sure of it when he put his fingerprint on the future with IBM’s commitment November 6, 2008 in a speech describing THE SMARTER PLANET.

The Greater IBM Connection?…
It felt good today to be reminded by the GOOD NEWS above. Another plus was finding out about it on Twitter from GIBMer Jasmin Tragas, IBM Australia (Wonderwebby) It is still another example of the goodness that comes from our Greater IBM Connections across the world. Jasmin reminded us all today in one of her tweets, “Give, give, give. Without take. Learn how Jasmin is setting the example in her own words and in a creative visual exhibitat the Women’s Gallery at the Global Dialogue Center — changing lives for women in the Philippines. Then you are invited to GIVE, GIVE, GIVE. Like Charlie Ung told us in his story from Ghana…

…Maybe that’s the key:
small change that leads to big change.”

Tell us what small changes you are leading. Spread the good news!


Dk010109-recollectionDebbe Kennedy
Contributing Author
Greater IBM Connection Blog
Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and
Leadership Solutions Cos.
author, Putting Our Differences to Work
Video Book Review by futurist Joel A. Barker
IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco

GroupCHAT-smONLINE EVENT: You’re Invited!

…a global conversation with futurist and filmmaker Joel A. Barker
1:00 pm ET – 2:30 pm ET (10:00 am PT – 11:30 PT)
No fees. Registration required. Login/audio sent via email.
We expect it to be widely attended based on registration.
Hope you can join us!


“I know nothing stays the same…”

As we stand together at the threshold of both crisis and opportunity, everything around us is calling for all of us to CHANGE…to prove once again we can “change our spots.”
Are you ready?

The notion gives me flashbacks

When I first started in my own business, after a wonderfully rewarding leadership career with IBM for 20+ years, it was a big, GIANT change—one I was excited about; one IBM had prepared me to take on; one I had dreamed about, but when it actually came, there were sure some scary moments of uncertainty and doubt. Ever had that experience yourself when you dared to break away from the familiar?

There was a poignant moment in my transition that has stayed with me…
In the very first job I landed with my new company, I spent a wonderful morning with a room full of women health care leaders. They were in the process of reinventing themselves as a leadership team to move into major changes in their organization. We had a warm, honest and meaningful exchange together—it was just one of those very special occasions when everything worked.

At the end of the session, one of the women, named Ruth, a senior manager at a major hospital, slipped a piece of paper in my hand. She said, “Thank you for this time with us. I wrote a poem while you were presenting to express what happened for me.”

All these years, I cherished her poem and called upon it many times for inspiration. I’ve always wished she had known how meaningful the message was to me at the time. I never saw her again. …but now, I get to pass it on to you…a kind of “family heirloom” to share with you in my Greater IBM friends. Take good care of it and hopefully, you too can pass it along some time:

by Ruth B.

Lonely words
lost in a barrage,
suddenly become
no longer lonely
but more important
than any gone before.

“I need to change,
but can I?
Will I?
Do I dare?”
What will become of the
treasured past, the familiar
sameness of my life?

I will change
because I want to be as good as I can
I want to leave my signature
though invisible
on others’ lives
so that when
my career ends
will begin.

My biggest lesson from this poem was learned in writing this post. In reflection I can see a kind of miracle happened.  When my career ended at IBM, others did begin theirs…and new doors opened in my life. I took with me 21 years of knowledge and experience that shaped a new future. The BIG surprise is that all the years of hard work in growing my company would prepare me to unexpectedly reunite with the company and people I loved years later at Greater IBM. Nice!

“I know nothing stays the same…
…it will be coming around again.”
—Carly Simon

What poignant moments of transition have inspired YOU?


DebbekennedyDebbe Kennedy
Contributing Author
Greater IBM Connection
Founder, President & CEO
Global Dialogue Center and
Leadership Solutions Cos.
author, Putting Our Differences to Work
Video Book Review by futurist Joel Barker
IBMer 1970 – 1991 L.A.; Anchorage; Seattle; San Francisco

RELATED EVENT – You’re Invited!
IT’S A NEW DAY!: Renewing Ourselves; Changing the World
…an ONLINE commemorative day of conversation day
celebrating International Women’s Day 2009  Join us!
Learn more and register…or visit Greater IBM Women’s
International Network for Leadership (GIBM-WIN-L) on