In Search of Original Thought

As I get older, I frequently find myself noodling on obscure thoughts from my distant past. It happened again recently when I remembered a quote from my college days. The specific class, professor and subject have long since faded away. But, the quote apparently remains indelibly etched in my psyche.

“An original thought only occurs once every one hundred years.”

Strange as it may sound, that was it! “An original thought only occurs once every one hundred years.”

Upon originally hearing that quote, I distinctly remember thinking two thoughts.

First, “How do you measure that?” Followed closely by thought number two.

“If that’s true, why should I try to think up new stuff? I could live one hundred years and end up with nothing to show for my efforts.”

Let’s face facts. As leaders, you and I don’t have the luxury of sitting passively waiting for an original thought to materialize. We’ve got to get things done. And “getting things done” means “done” with the least amount of delay, confusion, disruption, conflict, scrap, injuries — well, you know the drill.

So it’s a leader’s job — your job and my job — to get out there and find original thoughts — thoughts that contribute to our people being more engaged and motivated while making our workplaces more productive and profitable.

The late Cavett Robert, visionary founder of the National Speakers Association, was fond of promoting the value of O.P.E. — other people’s experience. His fervor for the intentional discovery and utilization of OPE was simple. And it makes great practical sense for us today.

Asking Employees What They Think

When we tap into and learn from other people’s experiences, their knowledge and their intellect, we greatly reduce the time, anxiety and even pain associated with getting our jobs done. The experience of others may hold the key to that production innovation we’re searching for, or the staff retention issue we’re battling.

We’ve heard it said that two heads are better than one. I would add — only if both are good heads!

So the challenge is relatively simple: identify the many good heads around you and purposefully tap into their knowledge, experience — and their thoughts. That’s right, go out of your way to ask others — your colleagues, your team members, those you lead: “What do you think?”

Chances are you will never know what others think unless you ask — and then, of course, if you listen carefully to what they have to say. It’s a simple case of recognizing that none of us is as smart as all of us, even if one of us is the leader.

Additional Resources



Phillip Van Hooser
Author: Phillip Van Hooser
Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE is committed to helping organizations transform their business outcomes by transforming the talent of their people. He is an award-winning keynote speaker and author on leadership, service and communication. His popular book, “Willie's Way: 6 Secrets for Wooing, Wowing and Winning Customers and Their Loyalty” re-releases September 3. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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