Even good ideas may have to die

On first read, the phrase “murder board” is a jolt to pacifist sensibilities. But not to fear. It’s excess ideas, not the folks who dream them up, that author and Silicon Valley strategist Nilofer Merchant targets in The New How: Creating Business Solutions through Collaborative Strategy. She explains:

Murder boarding is a kind of counter-weight to white boarding as a brainstorming tool. Instead of creating an unbounded set of new ideas, its purpose is to enable organizational leaders to evaluate many options effectively, yet still converge on the winning choice in a bounded timeframe.

It’s not just the weak ideas that get killed; good options or ideas at the wrong time also need to go. Decent, but not great, ideas put forth by very nice people are also a target. Murder boarding is not about team spirit in any way. It is about a selection and decision framework that lets you and your organization make tough choices among good options.

Merchant’s advice mirrors what my friend Thom Jeavons and I had to say about the discipline of wise choice-making when growing givers’ hearts is the goal. We wrote:

In any vibrant, out-ward looking organization, there are certain to be more good ideas than there are funds to support them. An organizational ability to say no to some good opportunities is crucial to setting realistic fundraising goals. Just because a need presents itself or the ministry is asked to take on a new challenge doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. . . Potential new programs should be tested against the organization’s long-range plan and its collective sense of vocation. All new initiatives must support carefully and prayerfully considered priorities of the organization.

Conventional wisdom suggests that an idea – almost any idea – is a terrible thing to waste. In contrast,  Merchant tells us, the key to organizational success is “not how many good ideas you have, it’s how many good ideas you kill.”

What's your take on this topic?

%d bloggers like this: