We are often asked for advice on how to implement a creative idea. How to turn a pile of ideas into sustainable innovations. Many managers and organisations are struggling with change and when it comes to executing novel ideas they are in the dark on where to start.
Ideas are important, yet most of all they are starting points. Ji Lee, former creative director at the Google Creative Lab once stated;
“Ideas are nothing, doing is everything”.
Novel ideas can be inspiring, but when they can’t be translated into concrete action steps they are useless. When (business) ideas can’t be executed, implemented or tested they represent little to no value. Creative ideas that are not being executed are not innovations. They are someone’s hobby.
It also happens quite regularly that original ideas do get implemented, yet die a long and painful death. Teachable moments, but above all expensive and painful failures which you should avoid at all time. Ignorance and ego go hand in hand when it comes to implementing ideas that were not worth implementing from the beginning.
Doing things is important, but there is something even more important: doing the right things. More often than not people are carrying out ideas without first taking a step back and thinking about why they are doing it in the first place.
Always be honest with yourself and your team. Is this idea truly valuable? Does this idea solve a problem? Who is the problem owner? Do I know for sure that this problem exists, or is it falsely based on an assumption? And most importantly; is this challenge worth solving at all? Or is it, what the Japanese so beautifully like to call, a Chindōgu.
Needless to say, these useless solutions are not the main reason for failing innovation. The lack of implementation is the main culprit.
In every brainstorm session, you can find at least a few amazing ideas. However, most of these novel ideas never see the light of day. The reason is often that no one takes responsibility for these fragile newborns. It’s hard work to get things done and it takes a lot of discipline. If nobody is willing to fight to save an idea’s life, it’s no wonder that so few innovative ideas are actually being realised.
As a manager, you have to be aware that it requires a lot of effort to gain the support of your entire organisation. If you want your organisation to back your idea you have to start by finding ambassadors who want to own and execute these ideas.
If you want to have the commitment of your team, make sure that everybody creates a list of things that they can do to turn the ideas into reality. Let people adopt an idea and create a list of things that they can do themselves to realise this idea.
There are several types of questions you can make them answer:
1. Make People Enthusiastic
What’s the idea?
What makes this such a great idea?
What are the benefits of this idea?
What is the value in this idea?
What is a concrete version of this idea?
(How can we execute this idea today or tomorrow?)
2. Let People Participate
Can we increase the value of this idea?
Can we take away the downsides of this idea?
For who is this idea intended? (Why would they want this idea?)
What can we add to make it even better?
3. Make People Accountable
What do we need to realise this idea? (time, money, assets? etc.)
What are the steps that we need to take to execute this idea?
Can we create a roadmap?
Can we put all these steps into one timeframe?
How can we test if this idea would work?
What would be the MVP of this idea?
Who is going to do what?
Answering the questions above is just a simple way to help your team to turn ideas into concrete action-oriented steps. Get started, test your ideas, look for (and be receptive to) feedback and make sure you always end up with something concrete (a business model, prototype, sketch, website, plan etc.) to show that you are getting results.