Contributed by: Charles Lee
Charles Lee is CEO and Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation. He is a noted speaker, coach and author, who offers expertise on an array of concepts including idea-making, creative strategy, leadership development, collaboration, branding, social presence and viral marketing. For more from Charles, check out his site www.charlestlee.com and his book, Good Idea Now What?
In a world that embraces buzzwords like “entrepreneur”, “creativity”, and “innovation”, there’s bound to be an abundance of passionate ideas. Unfortunately, passion alone is not enough to create the kind of change, product, or service many dream about. Far too many ideas experience premature death because they lack intentional strategy, processes, and the gritty commitment necessary for idea execution.
The good news is that there are proven ways to bring our ideas to life. The following are some idea-making principles that have guided many idea-makers in their endeavors:
Idea-Making Principle No. 1 – Ideas Don’t Work. We Do
Thomas Edison was right when he stated, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Ideas come to life because we choose to roll up our sleeves and get stuff done! This takes some level of intentional organization and planning.
Too many creative leaders have given themselves a false sense of permission not to be organized, all in the name of artistry and creativity. But reality is that most creative people who live out their dreams have actualized their passion through intentional planning and hard work. Our creativity deserves our commitment to create optimal pathways for its implementation.
Idea-Making Principle No. 2 – Our Biggest Hindrance May Be Us
Good ideas take time to develop; yet too many leaders give up on concepts far too early. Some rationalize it as managing limited resources when in fact, it may be their own inability or unwillingness to work through the frustrations that come with the process.
The truth is that frustration is often a precursor to breakthrough and scarcity of resources can actually be the catalyst for creativity. Being mindful of internal tendencies and working through perceived limitations with others often helps with the process.
Idea-Making Principle No. 3 – Spatial Ideation Matters
Physical environment and space qualify as significant factors in the idea-making process. The environment that surrounds us fuels our creativity and ability to see and feel what we’re trying to form. We don’t have to be in the “coolest” space to create, but we should pursue the kind of space that could offer the most relevant experience related to our passions.
The most creative concepts often reside in the environment of the people it will ultimately benefit. Who are the stakeholders and main beneficiaries of your passion? Go to them, listen, learn, love and take notes. The closer we get to moving the pendulum from “them” to “us” through spatial presence and proximity, the better chance we’ll have in actually developing ideas that work.
That said, there are definitely times to move away to reflect upon the environment we hope to serve. Spatial distance can actually bring clarity to concepts. We all need regular time within as well as outside. Proximity and distance are both your greatest assets and hindrances to formulating ideas.
If we want to create or develop ideas, we need to stay close to the people that the ideas will benefit and work in the environment where the idea-making will happen.
Idea-Making Principle No. 4 – Prove It By Writing It Down
Before we go tell someone about our idea, we need to take some time to put it on paper. Be careful to not just take it from mind to mouth. Writing forces us to organize our thoughts and provides a degree of needed perspective. It not only refines the idea, but also helps us anticipate questions people might have when we do share. This process will help focus our clarity in storytelling and raise our confidence in communications.
Idea Making Principle No. 5 – Think Process & Then Think Process (Again)
An on-going refinement of our idea-making process is essential to executing ideas. Whether our process includes a particular location, time and/or team, identifying how and when we work best is key. In developing your own process, consider the following areas to help guide you:
- Business Plan – A working business plan is essential for any endeavor because it provides direction to any vision or passion. Even if you’re just starting out, a simple business plan will keep you focused and accountable to the task at hand.
- Sustainability – Does your plan have fiscal and human resource legs? In other words, how will you fund or resource your endeavor? From where will you pull the fiscal and human capital? Does your business or organization have concrete commitments to help support its launch? Will people actually invest in it and why?
- Scalability – How much growth potential is realistic in the next one to three years? Can you identify those growth indicators? Will you and your team (if you have one) sacrificially commit to the plan for the next three years to implement the concepts at personal cost?
- Simplicity and Uniqueness – Is your message simple enough to grasp and communicate to potential partners and supporters? Will people get the unique message of your passion, or will you drown as white noise? How will you make it accessible enough that people can easily get involved?
- Longevity – Thinking long-term also provides a broader perspective of what it is you hope to develop, which can minimize unnecessary, short-term distractions and frustrations.
- Investment – Too many idea makers get sidetracked by “costs.” It’s unrealistic to eliminate money from the equation so get advice on how to maximize a limited budget or increase funding for growth.
Idea-Making Principle No. 6 – Ask Questions that Lead to Better Strategy
Great questions while working toward a goal often lead to more intentional strategy—note I said “while working.” Some of the best questions arise while moving forward. Don’t expect to have all the necessary questions or answers prior to working on an idea. Start first and then refine along the way.
Idea-Making Principle No. 7 – Our Ideas Can Become Reality
While there’s no magic pill to take for great idea-making, our ideas can come to life if we choose to move on them. We live in a world that gives us access to information, technology, and even opportunities for funding our ideas. It can happen. In fact, it must happen if we truly believe our ideas can change our world for the better.