Have you seen the movie Apollo 13? In case you’re unfamiliar with it, it is not the sequel to Apollos 1 through 12. It’s a nail-biter of a movie that tells the true story of the ill-fated-and almost disastrous-Apollo 13 mission to the moon. At the risk of ruining it for you, the crew of Apollo 13 never made it to the moon. Instead, they nearly died when an onboard explosion made it virtually impossible for them to return safely to Earth.
For the crew of Apollo 13, as well as the support personnel on the ground, this was the epitome of a high-pressure situation.
And to successfully make it through this high-pressure situation-to solve the myriad seemingly insurmountable problems-they had to improvise. They had to come up with creative ideas, under severe time constraints (oxygen in the spacecraft was rapidly running out), and with the lives of three astronauts hanging in the balance.
I know… sometimes it feels like that at your workplace too, doesn’t it?
At times like this, you need what the crew and support personnel of Apollo 13 needed: ideas. And when everything’s hanging in the balance, it doesn’t really matter where the ideas come from.
But some leaders don’t seem to get this.
Some leaders, when faced with a high-pressure situation, shut everyone else out – or, at best, listen only to a tiny, select group of people at or near their hierarchical level.
And that’s a mistake.
Because the truth is that a good idea can come from anyone, at any level. If the idea from Joe, the third shift custodian, is the one that saves the astronauts, isn’t that what really matters?
But too often, as leaders, we let our egos get in the way. We think that only we can solve the problem and that getting credit for the solution is more important than the solution itself. And that’s the kind of thinking that will kill the astronauts in your world.
Harry Truman once said something interesting:
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish… if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
In a high-pressure situation, ideas (and options) can be your best friends. So why would you want to limit them?
Once, when I was producing my comedy TV show Almost Live!, a guest canceled at the last minute. Okay, no astronauts were going to die… but it was still a high-pressure situation for me. The entire cast and crew contributed ideas, including my lowest-paid writer. His suggestion was that maybe he could fill the time on the show-if we could get some liquid nitrogen.
By the way, my lowest-paid writer’s name was Bill Nye.
And that night, he became Bill Nye the Science Guy.
You never know where the great ideas are going to come from… or from whom. No matter what’s at stake in your world – whether it’s the lives of three astronauts, or seven minutes of dead air on a comedy show – solicit as many ideas from as many people as you can… and then pick the best option.