"Back in the day, we did creative thinking about ideas."

I was talking with a colleague the other day. He has been working closely with a particular client for fifteen years. So long, in fact, if people walk through the department where he is stationed, you would never know he ISN’T an employee unless someone said something about it.

The client has undergone tremendous changes in leadership and staff during his tenure working with the company. It has also endured a variety of boom and bust periods in these years.

He mentioned saying "back in the day" almost daily before introducing ideas in meetings. The company has implemented very smart, creative strategies through the years. It just as frequently has lost track of how creative thinking brought about these strategies whenever it hits a bust cycle or goes through a leadership change.

So in suggesting previous ideas that used to pass for creative thinking, he feels compelled to inform others that they aren’t original ideas, but ones the company has tried previously.

They were great ideas once. They fell out of favor, however, and the company abandoned them.


Every Old Idea Is New Again

My immediate reaction was, "Stop doing that!"

It's the same reaction when an individual who changes jobs makes continual references to how things were done at the former employer once they are the new employer. I tell people who do this to own their experiences and simply introduce ideas they are bringing along from previous jobs as if they emerged from completely fresh creative thinking.

The same principle applies someone has been in one place much longer than most co-workers. These individuals have earned the expertise, experience, and valuable historical frame of reference co-workers have not. Continually prefacing ideas with "back in the day" not only makes one seem old, but could be creating hurdles for gaining support for smart ideas that haven’t taken hold, but should have.

It's a New Idea to Them

When you have a strong historical perspective on what will work because you've been around long enough to see an idea tried and work before, simply state the idea. Unless there's a clearly compelling reason to disclose the idea's origins, it's far better to share the idea without attribution, keeping your need to date the idea as an “old idea” to yourself.

Following this strategy, you'll be recognized for the creative thinking and ideas you're sharing irrespective of when and where the idea was first imagined and implemented.

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