What Drives an Organization Forward: People or Ideas?

 | October 25,2013 04:55 pm IST

Practically speaking, running an organization is more or less similar to driving a train: the technicalities have to be in unison, the train on the proper tracks, passengers coming and going, but at the end of the day, the train has to reach the right place at the right time. Life would have been simple, if the ride was smooth, but to make it complex, if the people aboard had the power to steer the train's destination, the ride could be quite bumpy.

Any industry, be it manufacturing or services, is built and driven on two major forces. One, being people, two, being ideas, irrespective of their rankings.

Core product, strategy, branding, distributions, direction, goals, achievements are nothing but ideas set by people. Not looking at it from an HR perspective, the confusion is about the conflict between ideas and people. Ultimately, for an organization to run, one of these two gains an upper hand, the other being the trade-off. The challenge is to find the sync between ideas and people.

When an employee walks into his office every morning, he carries with himself a set of ideas and perspectives, eager to reflect them into action. With attrition levels rising, when an employee leaves an organization, he takes his ideas and strategies with him. Thus, people are an invaluable asset. What if, the employee is not productive? Now, ideas lead the race.

Taking two situations: -
1. Ideas Winning Over People: People come and go. Ideas drive the organization. A striking idea takes the organization places, gives the competitor a run for his position and, thus, helps the organization reap profits.

2. People Winning Over Ideas: Ideas can not work long, if they are not nurtured by proper hands, which reap profitability.

The above two cases lead to the following combinations: -

A good idea in the right hands

A good idea in the wrong hands

A bad idea in the wrong hands

A bad idea in the right hands

A good idea in the right hands can be a perfect stand for an organization. There is no conflict between people and ideas. It's a smooth sail.

A good idea in the wrong hands can prove to be fatal. There are many examples we can learn from failures of a few organizations, which had brilliant ideas, an entrepreneurial spirit, but a conflict among people can lead to a situation where the employee is selfish and thinks about his personal gain, rather than the oganization's. Wrong hands do not necessarily mean a selfish employee. If the proper cords are not struck by the team as a whole, the cacophony can prove to be quite disastrous. Ultimately, at the end of the day, if the employee does not sink himself into the organization's culture and does not apply his spirit to scale new heights, the growth can be lethargic.


A bad idea in the wrong hands is an extreme situation which can lead to anything remotely close to growth.

A bad idea in the right hands: Just opposite to how a bad idea in the wrong hands can prove futile, a bad idea in the right hands can prove to be successful, if the group dynamics are in proper place. The right hands capable of steering positive growth can manipulate the ideas, according to the company's core values, and help reap profits and profitability.

Hence, ultimately people matter. But again, people with productive ideas can not add value to the organization, if the culture is not conducive for idea replication. A good or a bad idea in the wrong hands can take the organization no where, but a bad idea given to a set of people who are passionate about their work can help the organization grow. It is not necessary that ideas develop in the top-tier. Hence, a manager must be attentive, covering the entire spectrum and nurture a culture with the right set of people who can reap and grow ideas.