Making Ideas Happen

Discover how to make your great ideas a reality.

Great ideas often strike us when we least pay concentration. For instance, you could be out in the garden enjoying an outdoor lunch with your family on a fine Saturday when suddenly, an astounding idea hits you. Come Monday, you presented it to your immediate supervisor, and an agreement was made about how fantastic it was. Before you know it, a project team was established to make your idea turn into reality.

However, the project seemed to be going south after a couple of weeks, and no one can contribute ideas to work out on a solution. Expectedly, the enthusiasm of those eager to work on the project started to diminish as the whole venture went down on a spiral after a month.

This happens to the best of us in the business world. A lot of promising ideas often get lost in translation and officially dropped within the execution process.

To help out, this article aims to show how to overcome this dilemma through having the right mind-set and organization for successful execution of ideas.

In this article you’ll discover:

  • How news feed ruins your life
  • How to work like John Grisham
  • Why experience alone is not an enough ground to hire

Every task can be broken down into action steps, references and backburner items.

Every so often, we all get to experience a moment when crucial ideas are demanded, but nothing comes out. Say, you maybe tasked to prepare the presentation that determines the course of a special project, but as you sit in front of your computer, you got nothing.

I believe we can all agree that each of us has experienced this in the past. And we can all relate to the fact that it is a horrible and pressuring time. What if I tell you that you can avoid such experience for good? Would you be willing to know how to get rid of that ‘mental block’ situation?

An important thing that you ought to know is that every project has three main categories; action steps, gathering references, working on backburner items.

First things first, you need to know what your action steps are. What specific task has to be done to see the project through? Say, for your important sales presentation, you could have the following action steps; creating outlines, asking your supervisor what benefits to showcase, etc.

Then, the next step is to gather references or the related information you deem useful for the triumph of the project. For your vital presentation, your references could be the project sales forecasts, market competition analysis, feedback from previous presentation, etc.

Finally, you have the backburner items or the things that can contribute to the necessary trimming and value adding purposes. These could be action steps or references that you can add as a bonus later on to add that wow factor to the final outcome.

Now, elements to beautify your presentation like cool graphics and such are not a requirement, especially if you do not have much time to prepare. You can always wow them with how the information are gathered together to form an irresistible presentation.

Make it a point to separate the aspects of your project when preparing for it. Do not just go straight into actions to avoid stress during the process. Use these categories as your guide to avoid getting distracted from distilling the vital from the trivial.

Think in terms of action and your projects will always be moving forward.

Imagine wanting to jump right into the opportunity as a new market suddenly opens up. The only thing is you do not have a product to sell.

So then, you are eager to brainstorm involving the best and the brightest in your company. You let their creativity flow and trust that they can come up with awesome products to sell. However, you realize that while their suggestions are awesome, none of those resonates with what you think might be practicable.

The usual reason why great ideas fail is the lack of action plan. We often focus on brainstorming and meetings than we pay less attention to actually gearing up the projects toward the actions.

For instance, we have religious meetings we observe at least once a week. This weekly meetings end up being a waste of time, because we often spend more time keeping the people updated rather than focusing on gearing up for the battle and coming up with new ideas.

Make sure that you prioritize any sudden realization for ideas or important notes regarding the actions plans. This helps to make sure that you are on the right track, you do not get distracted, and you follow through. Remember, action steps create momentum no matter how big or small the action is. This way, you would know how to see your ideas through success.

Time spent reacting is time spent losing.

In sports, the team developing offensive moves and strategies has the winning advantage over the team spending time reacting to counter without any positive outcome.

This philosophy can be applied to business as well. When it comes to your job, do you have the upper hand?

The more time you spend simply reacting to the overwhelming deluge of information and tasks requested by others, the more time you waste. The easy mechanics to send messages and reactions do not make this any better for professionals these days. A century ago, sending and receiving letters take a lot of time, and so they do not react over petite unworthy things to avoid wasting a lot of efforts.

But since email and social networks exist now, it is hard to not react over small things. Not only do you waste your time, but you also divert your focus from the process of organization.

The ease of communication due to social networking and electronic mailing is one of the things celebrated in the business world as it makes things easier for everybody, but only if used properly.

A good analogy is going for a swim in the ocean. The more you focus on not drowning and letting the thought occupy your mentality completely, you lose your strategy to find the right direction, which is presumably toward the safety of the dry land.

Instead of devoting the whole working day to answer these messages, why not dedicate an hour or two out of your evening to sort every messages and requests sent to you? This way, you can focus on what is important.

Most projects don’t fail because of a bad idea, but because of bad execution.

If you think success can happen overnight, you can definitely learn a thing or two from geniuses such as Thomas Edison. His invention of light bulb did not happen during the first 24 hours from the time he conceived the idea. His idea for invention while very smart and promising, it has faced the danger of abandonment a couple of times before it literally lightens the path Edison walked on. He was well aware of the trail that his commitment to his invention faced.

When our very commitment gets challenged, we get disinterested. And often times, when we start realizing the hard work it requires to pull things off, we get disheartened and start looking for a new idea to develop. Thus, we drop the idea rather than work hard toward it. This is what known as the project plateau, or the time during which we drop our idea to work on a fresh and exciting replacement.

The product innovation company that designed Apple’s first mouse, IDEO, supports its designers to work on new ideas without over-thinking. Instead of bathing into the pressure until they start dropping one by one, IDEO encourages them to go straight to “The Shop” to have their new ideas turned into prototypes by the multi-million-dollar department.

This way, no idea would be wasted and workers do not subject themselves to the plateau phase. Now, you do not have to have your own version of the “The Shop”. Instead, adapt the idea of not getting pressured to new ideas that would result to abandoning the current one completely. Do not over-think. Instead, use your limited energy to make the most of the idea that you are working on.

For example, John Grisham, a best-selling author developed his own personal ritual he refers to as ‘silly and brutal but very important’. Every 5:00 a.m., he would start his day with a shower, and then he would go straight to his office to drink a cup of coffee and start writing at 5:30 a.m., and he requires himself to write at least one page per day.

Let your creative productivity run without stealing your focus away from what matters.

Partnerships between different types of people help compensate for your personal shortcomings.

You have probably noticed this already with fiction—it is full of partnerships between people who share absolutely nothing in common, but they still reach success. I mean, take Holmes and Watson, Starsky and Hutch, or Pinky and the Brain.

Though these people and their team-ups were purely fictional, the philosophy behind the idea of their success can be applied in reality. They may not share things or virtues in common, but they become extraordinary successful when they collaborate their minds. This has been tested to be true in the creative industry.

In project realization, there are three distinct types of people:

  • Dreamers
  • Doers
  • Incrementalists

The dreamers are highly creative in nature. They constantly come up with new and exciting ideas, but they often have difficulty in seeing things through the completion.

Doers are the pragmatists amongst the three. They focus on execution. They work on the ideas from conception to completion and always have packed skepticism to work.

And then, there are the Incrementalists who can switch between both roles as dreamers and doers, depending on the necessity and their mood. Incrementalists alone need help from dreamers and doers to still be able to execute.

Apple has these three types of people to represent the leadership within the company. Steve Jobs is an incrementalist, Chief Designer Jonathan Ive is a dreamer, and Chief Operations Officer Tim Cook was a dreamer. They were all a perfect mix to make the company work.

Ive worked on keeping the designs coming, Cook ensured that profits would come in, and finally, Jobs secured bringing visionary ideas to completion.

If you want your idea to fail, be sure to keep it a secret.

Do you like keeping your great ideas to yourself or do you share them to others to help you work on them? Often, we like to keep our ideas to ourselves in fear of having them stolen from us.

However, this mentality will only hold us back. Even the person who came up with the idea would often struggle seeing the whole project through, it would be twice as hard for someone who did not come up with the idea on their own.

Now, discussing ideas with other people can secure some important feedback that could be very helpful on your journey to success. Some people would even show interest in joining, which is a good sign.

Take the Editor in Chief of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson’s willingness to share his idea. The moment he came up with the idea of ‘Geek Dads’ to target the techie fathers out there in a form of a blog, he immediately shared it with everyone using his own blog.

His announcement gained him enthusiastic responses that he took as a good sign. He was even planning to drop the project if he was not able to attract a viable team willing to work on it within six weeks. But he was able gain more than just that.

In addition to this, you will be able to get an outsider’s point of view about the project that you may not have noticed since you can have the tendency to be biased about your own work.

At the annual TED Conference, there is a prize awarded in the spirit of the concept of accountability. Every competitor should give their ‘one wish to change the world’ presentation. But before they presented their presentation, the previous year’s winner would have to show a video of the progress made in accordance of his or her own ‘one wish to change the world’ execution. This way, the wish would not stay as a wish just for the sake of winning.

The success of creative teams depends on the right mix of initiators and skeptics.

Dealing with project plateau must start during the early stage of execution; as soon as you establish the team that will work toward the implementation of the project. As you hire for your creative team, it is vital to know that initiative weighs more than experience. Keep this in mind; initiators like to build momentum to keep the scheme moving forward, and this trait is absolutely helpful when project plateau threatens to hit your scheme. This is one of the reasons why initiators play an immense responsibility in seeing projects through completion.

The R&D Company behind Priceline.com—Walker Digital—is being run by President John Ellenthal who used to favor aspirants with impressive experience over any other skills. However, Ellenthal then realized that “ideas never get made unless everyone makes it their business to do so”. Now, he knows why he should prefer initiative over experience. And as he put it, he would definitely “trade experience for initiative and the raw desire to do stuff in a heartbeat.” This goes to prove that an initiator is the vests that a drowning project needs when a deluge starts hitting its fundamentals.

In order to know for sure if the applicant right in front of you is an initiator, start paying attention to his past by examining the closest material you can demand for—the résumé. This way, you get traces of his previous employment to confirm if their commitments coincide with what you are looking for.

Then, focus on their previous achievements. Initiators make sure they work in areas that interest them, and they crave to succeed in such areas as well.

However, keep in mind that a healthy dose of skepticism can save your team from wasting efforts and resources on ideas that would not contribute to your team’s triumph.

You would need dreamers during brainstorming to gather new ideas and doers to provide a healthy dose of skepticism to keep everyone from committing impulsive mistakes during the execution. A balance of these traits can secure your project’s success.

Making the most of a creative team requires a special type of leadership.

The imaginative people working in the creative industry or department will stop at nothing to come up with creative designs to present to the company. However, they would need a leader to help them execute these amazing ideas. Any extraordinary creation must be governed by an exemplary leadership to cultivate the right consensus.

The reason behind the requirement of a leader is the fact that great ideas often end up being compromised down to the lowest common denominator without a good leader to analyze other suitable compromises.

Take Tom Hennes’ way of project execution as a good example. In Thinc Design, Hennes often receives dozens of stakeholders’ advices, suggestions, and demands that he had to compromise every once in a while. But none of these compromises must be made without his teams’ efforts to identify the sacred points to keep during the entire scheme.

Because of this approach, Hennes was able to lead his team to extraordinary creations such as the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. He was able to prove that good leaders of creative teams must know how to listen before they talk.

Other creative minds would often leave their old teams when they feel like their ideas and suggestions are not welcome to be heard. Most knowledgeable and veteran leaders would tend to block proposals that they can guess the outcomes due to experience. This is an example of how some leaders talk first before they listen.

An exemplary leader must know that dealing with ideas, especially in creative department, have to the exact opposite. Listening will not only gain great suggestions coming from your team, but it will also make them feel included. Thus, listening gives them the freedom and inspiration to be more creative and useful.

Most of the time, new members of the team have wider scope of point of view than the old ones who are already accustomed to the old ways of the team. For example, regular employees might be used to weekly meetings that can be a waste of time while newcomers might recognize the pointlessness in such habit. Listening to them might gain you better perspective and help you be more productive.

Final Summary

Success does not require the best ideas. However, it does require the best execution. Having organized timetable starting from action to execution will help you get to your goal.

Actionable advice:

Establish an ‘Energy Line’.

Start sorting out your projects according to their economic and tactical standards. Rate the extremity of their significance and their consequences on your whole project. Do not rate the importance of these values by how much energy you have already put into them, but rather how much you would still need to in order to see the project through.

Your Energy Line will optimize your distribution for the limited energy that you have to wisely allocate.

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