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The Plop – Ideas that Go Nowhere

The Plop

“Maybe it’d be a good idea if we _____(insert idea to expend the organization’s resources here)_______.”

How many times have you heard that line, in some form or another, in meetings?  (I lost count years ago!)  Now, how many times did a tangible result come from it?  (almost never!)  Instead, the person who made the suggestion plopped the idea and left it to fade into the ether of the great-ideas-we-never-implemented space that clutters our mental energy.

The “plop” is a suggestion that is made, but the creative mind offering it puts the onus of making decisions onto the group without driving the conversation about who will lead the idea, who will assist in its implementation, what the timeline for completing the suggestion will be, and which resources are required.  When this happens, the (perhaps) excellent thought falls to the ground, loses its gusto, and carries zero momentum forward.  Fret not, there is a remedy!

Turning a Plop into a Plan for Action

Your coworker or peer volunteer just made another plop in your three-hour-long meeting.  Everyone has lost interest, because the pattern of ideas that go nowhere keeps repeating.  You feel overwhelmed by all these suggestions that “we could do, and it’d be great!”.  Now what?

Step one: ask the person making the plop to take ownership of her or his idea.

Pose a few questions to help shape the plop into something the team can manage.  Ask the plopper what she or he would like to do to move the idea forward: will s/he be the project manager?  Will s/he play a supporting role on the project?

Find out more details about the idea so there is a clear picture of the expectations if the concept were to become reality.  Also, query which resources are necessary to make progress, and compare this need to a list of resources the team has at their disposal.

Step two: build the idea into a proposal.

The team now needs to consider the purpose of the idea–what will this suggestion solve, do, or change?  Additionally, a serious look at how strongly the idea connects to the organization’s mission, vision, and strategic objectives will provide guidance on whether the project is worthwhile for the organization.  Further, the team should consider who will do what, when, how, and with which resources.

Step three: make a decision.

From the inquiry in steps one and two, it will become clearer whether the plopper and others have time, energy, and resources to proceed, and it will uncover the degree to which there is alignment to the overall organization’s purpose.  These considerations make it easier for the team to make a decision whether to move forward with the idea: (a) move forward and enjoy a new adventure or (b) walk away from the idea with some new lessons on how to manage a plop.

Benefits of the Process

Regardless of the choice in step three, this process will build your team’s capacity to manage its decision-making, especially its ability to prioritize which projects best align with the organization’s strategy.  It also aims to reduce the number of plops in the long term, because teammates will realize that coming to a meeting unprepared is no longer the easy way out.  Instead of passing the work of building out a proposal to the team with little direction or leadership, anyone suggesting an idea will need to do some homework before dropping myriad plops onto the group.