June 2012

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff

 

Do You Have Seedlings of Ideas That Need to be Planted?

You get that little seed of an idea in your head that keeps growing and developing into something you just can't seem to ignore.

You keep drifting back to it to add detail and definition. Eventually your seedling of an idea becomes so real that its begging, daring, even taunting you to manifest it from thought to the physical world.

And the more it pushes, the more you obsess over it. Is this idea of yours really a breakthrough capable of delivering extraordinary outcomes, or is it just a brain fart that certifiably stinks?

I am a lifelong entrepreneur who has experienced the exhilaration and reward of nurturing seeds of an idea into something that is truly extraordinary. And rest assured, I have an impressive list of "brain fart" ideas that never should have seen the light of day.

But unfortunately, I know without question that I've had ideas that I should have nurtured and brought to life, but I just let them drift away. Maybe the timing wasn't right. Maybe I didn't have the resources to make it work. Maybe I just didn't get off my butt and an opportunity was lost.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to help you process, decipher and sort your idea seedlings:

Seedlings of innovation: Ideas are simply the magic of imagination and thought. Ideas are raw and abstract. They exist in a creative space where they acquire definition and meaning. But as seedlings, the survival skills of every idea must be tested before the "under construction" sign goes up.

Is your idea a solution to a problem? Does it address a need? Is there a market for it? Do you have the resources to bring it to life, or can you acquire those resources? What's the risk of running with your idea? What's the risk of not running with it?

The rule of 10: Ideas can be so captivating that they can methodically suck you and your company in, sap resources and create a major distraction. Before hitting the launch button, ideas need to be prioritized.

What are your company's top 10 initiatives for this year? Is the potential of this idea so great that it should bump one of the 10 initiatives? If so, which one will you put on the back burner?

Warning: Entrepreneurs are notorious for piling on the projects and giving little thought to the stuff that's already in the pipeline. There is an inherent downside to "just do it" leadership directives. Use the rule of 10. Any more than 10 major initiatives is overload for most companies. Be even bolder and use the rule of five.

Dough and bake time: Every idea needs time to take shape. Think of the creative phase of idea development as the time it takes to determine and mix the right ingredients and give time for the dough to rise. Bake time is when you refine your idea through prototyping and testing. If what comes out of the oven doesn't taste very good, go back and reformulate. There is no absolute approach to achieving breakthroughs. It's trial and error. This is all about doing your due diligence to ensure that your idea stands a chance in the real world.

Fish or cut bait: If your great idea begins to show signs that it is, in fact, a brain fart, it's time to cut bait. I've seen so many leaders keep pushing their ideas forward despite all the warning signs – even ignoring feedback from their trusted advisors. You've done it. I've done it. Pushing a bad idea through your company is like driving a cement truck through a flea market. Things get wrecked. Recognize the warning signs and cut bait. You and everyone around you will breath a sigh of relief.

Run with it: Good ideas should see the light of day. Good ideas look and feel right as seedlings. They're easy to explain. But many good ideas never see the light of day. They fall victim to doubt, fear of failure, procrastination, lack of organization and leadership. Breakthrough ideas often require the courage take a risk. To risk failure. To learn and grow from the experience of trying something bold.

Feed and nurture your ideas freely yet wisely. Use these simple strategies to guide you through the process of deciphering and sorting your ideas. Take time to dream. Step out of the box and think, "What if…?"

Neil Ducoff, founder of Strategies and author of the upcoming book "No-Compromise Leadership," developed the team-based pay concept more than 30 years ago and developed a company that trains and coaches to ensure businesses implement the program successfully. For more information, e-mail neil@strategies.com or visit www.strategies.com.