Where good business ideas go to die

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In the space between “ideas are a dime a dozen” and the need for “innovative ideas” is a chasm of failed follow through and opportunities lost.

It goes like this:

“I can see how this is working now that you’re here. I appreciate the help.”

“Thanks. Let me know if I can do anything else. I’m going to truck back to my desk and get to work.”

“You know, what would be a really good idea is if you could document how this is done. It would make it a lot easier to figure out.”

“What a great idea,” as our helping person walks back to his or her desk after completing the session.

And there the idea dies. That idea that would make our jobs easier. That idea, if worked with and expanded, that would bring in more revenue. The idea, if smartly implemented, would reduce our cost without the elimination of yet another job of another person. But we don’t have a good way of capturing, nurturing and implementing our ideas.

We just let them die.

I’d suggest three ways to not let them die, but to live in a way that helps us all.

1. Every idea needs to get on a list

If the ideas stay in people’s heads and never get on a list, they will never be acted on. Indeed, the entire purpose of a brainstorming session is to get every idea out of a person’s head and onto some yellow sticky that gets slapped on some white board for later consideration. That’s a list.

Once the idea is externalized, one can look more objectively at it and determine what needs doing with it. Without getting the idea on a list, every person can walk back to their desk and have the idea die.

2. Every idea needs to have an action to do to move the idea forward

If you think it is such a great idea, then what is the next thing you need to do to make it happen? Is it to explore the idea with another manager? See if the idea could support another project? Whatever that idea is, it needs to have a next action to take. Without having the next step, the idea dies.

Even brainstorming ideas get evaluated into a next action — from discarded to modified to elevated to changed to placed on the list of the best ideas. Each idea requires what is next to be done with it to make it happen.

3. Every idea needs follow-up for accountability

If you have a problem and have six ideas to solve it, you should then figure out what needs doing from the six ideas. Once you figure that out, you need to make yourself accountable to do the actions so the ideas aren’t drifting away with the passage of time.

As a manager, you need to ensure that the actions the ideas created are acted on and implemented by you and your team. Without the follow through and accountability, all of the good work to create the ideas that will solve problems and the subsequent actions to implement them will be for naught. And what you did was extend the idea with a lot more work to only let the idea die from lack of execution.

Focused ideas will help solve business problems

Look, behind the green marketing curtain, companies are a mess. People get hired to solve problems and contribute to company goals. While they do that through their work, they also help through the ideas they have to reach the goals. We fail, though, when we create the idea and watch it die — over and over again — by not getting it on a list, not having the next action to take on the idea, and making ourselves accountable to implement our actions.

Where do your ideas go to die? How could you change that in your life?

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