Brilliant Ideas Need Actions–the Right Actions

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, and magic and power in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe

 

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If words birth an idea, action animates it, making an idea a real, living, breathing organism. The right actions give an idea a place in the world, forever changing both us and our world. It’s a powerful notion—that we bring an idea to life with our words and our actions, and the world is not the same again.

Arguably, this is the realm of the entrepreneur, and although I am entrepreneurial, I am certainly not an entrepreneur.

My entrepreneur friends are a breed of their own. Most are bold and brash idea-generators who are “believers of the first order.” They see tomorrow as clearly as you and I see the sky at dusk. They are quick to enlist anyone and everyone who will listen and believe with them in the merit of their idea. These audacious entrepreneur friends of mine also live under both the blessing and the curse of being idea generators who “make things happen.”

These entrepreneurs have taught me a lot about the miracle of giving life to an idea—many times through the exhilarating experience of the generative process. These entrepreneurs brilliantly bring together creativity, practical need, and action.

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Of course, you don’t have to be around entrepreneurs very long to also know that “it doesn’t always work out like they thought. Some of the ideas end with “fire and brimstone,” the crash and burn outcome when ideas go awry. Sometimes these ideas don’t work out because of bad timing, sometimes due to the entrepreneur’s own weaknesses and leadership limitations, and still other times because the idea just didn’t have the horsepower to make it a reality. And therefore, these entrepreneurs’ ideas have the power to turn us into a hero or a goat. All of this is connected to how and why good ideas become a reality.

With that, here are 5 learnings, along with potential action steps, to make your brilliant idea a reality:

1. Give your idea the right words, then give your idea to the right person/people. Great entrepreneurs are really good communicators and have an innate ability to connect their idea to the right people. They start by giving others a reason to care about their idea and how the world would be different if their idea became a reality. They do this by telling stories and using powerful action words, so that a person can see himself in the story, too. At some point, ownership is shared, when a person can clearly see their own place in making the idea become a reality. The very best entrepreneurs are really good at sharing ownership of the idea, thus enlisting others’ commitment, passion, and influence.

Action step: Take some time to articulate your own good idea. Give it the right words. Then schedule 3 appointments with people who are able to you make your idea become a reality. Meet with each person, share the vision, and importantly, define each person’s role in helping you bring your idea to life. Tell the story and make it clear each of them has an important role to play. Then, evaluate–how did it go?

2. Be brutally honest about the costs. Good ideas are a dime a dozen. If you do the math, that makes each idea worth less than a penny (right?!). Instead, great ideas have real costs, and the likelihood of an idea becoming a reality is directly tied accurately evaluating the cost. I have been around my fair share of entrepreneurs who aren’t honest about the costs. Either with themselves, with others, or both. These leaders are some of the most dangerous to be around, by the way. But, for the leader who is honest, who shares the costs candidly, as part of the invitation to sacrifice for the mission, these leaders are often the most inspiring because they are not afraid to ask…and they know what the cost is to the people they are asking to sacrifice.

Action Step: Build a chart to map out the expenses of your new idea in these categories: $ costs (what are the hard costs to get started), time costs (how much time are you asking for), talent costs (what expertise you need), emotional costs (how much emotional energy are you asking for). Then, ask one person to put words to the chart–where are the real risks, relationally, emotionally, and otherwise.

3. Don’t let overwhelming costs (read: “impossible”) be the reason to stop developing your idea. The effective entrepreneur is brutally honest about the costs, yet also finds ways to “push forward” in the face of the “impossible.” The reality is that good ideas are a dime a dozen, but great ideas are special, and are worth overcoming what might appear to be “overwhelming” costs.

Action Step: Write down the end of the story—how will the world be different if you and your team are able to execute on the great idea. When we have a clear idea of the value of a great idea made a reality, when have the hope and expectation to overcome the overwhelming costs.

4. Clarify the “why”: A brilliant idea has obvious value, but every idea, no matter how brilliant, must also answer the “so what?” question. Simon Sinek says that you have to “start with why” (see the TED Talk), pointing out that “everyone knows what they do, many know how they do it, but few articulate ‘why’ they do it.” The world is awaiting the inspiration of a great idea that clearly articulates the “why.”

Action Step: Watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on answering the why (http://bit.ly/1j0lJVm). Then, with your core team, answer this question together, and put your answer up, somewhere where you will see it often.

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5. Give: Generosity is the currency of ideas. I’ve observed that the most generous entrepreneurs are often the ones with the best ideas. Is it because collaboration is their “default setting” and therefore they are always putting new ideas together in creative ways? Or, is it through their willingness to contribute to others’ good ideas, they also receive the good will of others?

I am not sure what the exact correlation is, but I can tell you, my generous entrepreneur friends very often have the best ideas. So, when you are starting out with a new great idea, the temptation will be to horde resources and hide your idea. While there is a legitimate reason to protect the intellectual property of your new idea, I have found most ideas are in more danger of being squandered than they are of being stolen.

Action Steps: Especially while you are developing your own great idea, look to participate in at least one other strategic engagement for an idea other than your own. This may be formal or informal. By participating in someone else’s creative process, you will not only express generosity, but you’ll also see how this same process will help you in your own iterative process.

What are your best ideas? What have you learned from being an entrepreneur? Or, from your entrepreneur friends who have taught you about idea-generation?

Brilliant Ideas Need Words—the Right Words

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“A pile of rocks ceases to be rocks when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.”  Antoine St. Exupery

I have met a lot of people who have brilliant ideas. In fact, one of the things I like to do is to ask, point blank, “What’s the best idea you have ever had?” And if I really want to get inside someone’s head (and get a glimpse into their heart for that matter), I ask, “You have a brilliant idea right now…quick, what is it? Don’t think…just say it.”

I know some people who have found a way to walk in brilliant ideas. They’ve moved from having brilliant ideas to, frankly, just being brilliant. (That’s a discussion for another time).

Sean gets a picture in his mind of the website, and begins to build it…lines of code turn into the expression of his brilliant idea, making it more than a website—there is an idea behind it, and when I catch a glimpse of what he is after, I am amazed…never mind when the site actually launches!

Because I believe every person is gifted with these two things—creativity and their unique experience of the world—I believe there is at least one brilliant idea in every person, an idea struggling to find expression. The brilliant idea’s genesis is the words a person gives to it—and, I love to help people find the right words to their brilliant idea.

It goes something like this:

“What injustice makes you angry?” or “If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?” or “If you had the budget, what great idea would you make into a reality?”

Then, one follow up question is all it takes—“Where would you start?” The second question makes the first question concrete.

Two things happen when we answer these two questions. First, we start to believe. The words are seeds of belief that begin to take root. You push through all the words that don’t fit. The part of the dream that is vanity gets chased away (well, maybe that takes some time). Your effort in choosing words makes you throw away the parts of your idea that are bad (yes, there are some bad ideas).

Your words also force into hand-to-hand combat “the doubting inner you,” who voices damaging words like, “That’s a stupid idea,” or “See, you aren’t creative,” or “That’s not a big enough/smart enough/important enough, etc., idea.” Or, worse, you think, “Don’t even entertain the hope for that!” Instead, “the determined you” has to speak to your idea, coax out of it the words that give it life. I love how Charles Dickens describes the process: “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”

It is also important to point out the more subtle struggle you’ll encounter with certain people in your life, who will come at you indirectly, offering the lukewarm praise that gets in your head, and causes doubt. You must choose carefully with whom you share your idea’s first words. Nothing damages a brilliant idea more than the wrong person getting a hold of it. The ancient writer Ovid pointed out that “a new idea is delicate” and that it can be “killed by a sneer or a yawn,” and “stabbed to death by a quip or worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”

Brad, an attorney and long-time friend of mine, has a brilliant idea to shape a public school district’s policies in ways that strengthen families in the district, thus giving young people the character and confidence to lead the next generation’s impact on the world. It’s a long shot, and that’s what I love about it–he is working to change the world in a practical way.

Your words also expose your brilliant idea to the light, driving the roots deep, each perfect word giving life to the seed.  When the words are the right words, a miracle of sorts happens…it starts to become real for others, not just you.

My mother-in-law’s words are simple: “I am stitching a quilt for Paul. What are his favorite colors?” A few months later, Meme’s life experiences and creativity emerge through the fabrics and the hours of meticulous cutting and stitching, creating a new and brilliant texture in Paul’s world—and, really for all our worlds. A brilliant idea come to life.

Maybe it’s a little like God breathing life into His best idea: “Then God formed and breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” We breath life into the brilliant idea we have through the words and the actions we give it.

The artists and writers help us. They give us the words for our brilliant ideas. Their words serve not only the story they are telling to us, but also for our own stories, the ones we are writing every day through our lives. Joseph Conrad said, “My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see.”

Kathy, my wife, sketches out a cartoon (cartoon characters she is known for by her friends and family). There emerges not just figures on a page–which are in themselves funny and brilliant–but also an insight about the relationships among the characters. She did this on Valentine’s Day about 30 years ago, a couple months before we got engaged, a sketch of me and her, standing at a garden, watching the plants and flowers grow. Her brilliant idea simply yet profoundly expressed through the cartoon–for me as real today as 30 years ago.

So, my question for you today is this: “You have a brilliant idea right now…quick, what is it? Don’t think…just say it.”

Start there. Give your brilliant idea the gift of your words.

And then, see what happens next.

(Next blog: Brilliant Ideas Need Actions—the Right Actions)

I would love to hear about your brilliant ideas. Respond to this blog, or confidentially at marc@marcfey.com.