From the snow of Vermont to the warm winters of Dallas and Austin, we had a wonderful month of sharing and installing our strategies with both longstanding clients and brand new companies.It was a ton of work and huge fun!We had workshops that stretched two solid days and brand new presentations. Nothing slows down as this new year unfolds. We will be in San Diego, Baltimore, and Florida in the next couple of weeks with huge programs around the client experience, the power of story, and the impact of focusing on idea generation.
Strategies are a dynamic thing. They move, shift, change, and evolve. Nothing stands still. One of our great challenges is to make sure the work we do is positioned to create real and true value. This happens through our constant updating of our content, processes, and delivery. We call these facelifts. The foundation idea is challenged and new ideas with support material are created. Dazzling Blue, The Once Upon a Time Project, Repeatable Successful Acts (the content of the new book), and the Idea Factory are all BRAND NEW!
Part I of our product line, The Elegant Simplicity Toolbox, is getting ready for its launch. This is a process-driven package of all the forms we use for creating strategic advantage. Keep your eyes open for the announcement. Colin has done an incredible job on the new designs working with our graphic king, Scott Braud.
Here is the latest Over Coffee Video.
"The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment. "
- Tony Robbins
“Wow, that was a great idea,” I told a client. “Where did it come from?” “Huh?” was the response. “Where did it come from?” I repeated. The client had no clue. “Are you telling me that you have no earthly hint of where this impactful idea was generated? You have got to be kidding me!” Which leads me to this month’s topic, ideas that create impact…and the development of a process, a map, a focused effort to recognize that there is a way to make ideas part of your business strategy and planning.
Idea planning is not some mystic formula that only the likes of Apple, DARPA, or Stephen King have access to. It is, in fact, a rather pedestrian undertaking. The generation of ideas is something we humans are really good at, but the connection between an idea and value, an idea and impact, an idea that can become a tangible thing, well… that, on the other hand, is pretty damn difficult.
First off, you need to have something in place to create ideas. What’s your something? Do you have anything FORMAL in place that tells everyone in your organization you value ideas, that you are searching for ideas that will help move the company towards the “-wards?” (Those are forward and upward.)
Maybe your process is about time, like 3M and Google. At 3M they have everyone dedicate 15% of their paid time working on new ideas, or, as they call it, “chasing unicorns.” The idea started in 1948 and has directly contributed to revenues exceeding $30 billion and over 23,000 patents. Not to be outdone, at Google they jumped into a 20% of your time to those unicorns and produced ideas like Gmail and Google Earth.
Maybe your process is about a specific group. For one of our clients, we recently helped put together a rotating group of folks called The Idea Council. The Idea Council meets once a month. They look for new ideas and kick around existing ideas searching for an associative connection to pursue.
It makes sense to put some rules around your process. Many idea-rich cultures use these three simple “boundary rules” (last month’s newsletter topic):
Focus on only a very specific area. Maybe marketing, sales, or communications. Don’t use a huge shotgun. Focus creates centered attention.
Does it solve a problem? Ideas around solutions are immediately powerful.
Does it create a gain? Does it help separate or differentiate us in our clients’ world?
For an idea to gain traction it has to have value, definable value. It has to have a way to become tangible, to become something. Finally, it has to be executable. Meaning, you have to be able to do it!
Oh, one more thing: if you aren’t committed to a process to generate and execute ideas, don’t worry… your competitors are!
Here are three steps to help you on the road to The Idea Factory:
DON'T BE AFRAID OF "LOTS":Focusing your ideas on a very specific area doesn’t mean you should limit the number of ideas you generate. The more the merrier. Nick Bentley, a top-notch game designer, uses the 100:10:1 formula. Get 100 ideas. It doesn’t matter how, just get one idea each from 100 people or 10 ideas each from 10 people. It is HARD and takes concentration. Next, create a filter that you pass the ideas through to eliminate certain ideas that simply won’t be real players. Your filter needs no more than three criteria. The idea is to get down to 10 ideas from 100. 10 ideas are workable, but you’re not done. Next, you have to get down to one, one really good idea that makes a difference. Start with lots, be disciplined, and filter for one that grabs your gut and makes your team say YES!
IT'S GOOD TO BE REGULAR: I shake my head at the countless times an enthusiastic start burns out faster than the first stage of a Saturn rocket. We humans seem to simultaneously be about excitement and disappointment. We love the jump start and rapidly become bored with the continued process. We want it now! I get it, the two-day delivery at Amazon Prime has seemed to pique our need for immediate gratification. Ideas, however, often take time. Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne works tirelessly on songs, often playing the same few measures over and over until they connect to the next section. Commit to the process. Make it as regular as any appointment on your calendar. Time and ideas have a strange relationship. Sometimes it’s an immediate Archimedean eureka! and other times it’s the 22 years of rejected poetry before Gertrude Stein was published.
SIZE MATTERS: Often ideas come in more sizes than shoes. Small is OK. Many ideas start very small. Mark Zuckerberg, the hoodie-wearing Facebook founder, just wanted to know who was in his class at Harvard. The scale of that idea allowed him to experiment. Experimenting is a good thing and much easier to do when ideas are at the scale of “doable.” It’s good to test, as we are often wrong, or at least not perfect at inception. Ideas are play things, and the more you play the more you will see an idea’s potential. It was estimated that over 2 billion people used Facebook last month. Hell, there are only about 6 billion people on the planet. Innovation guru Tim Kastelle of Queensland University in Australia said “Facebook may be the biggest idea since . . . water.”
SAY GOODBYE TO THOSE PESKY MOSQUITOS: Well, not goodbye to all mosquitos. Scientists from Yale and Vanderbilt have figured out how to start lowering the population of the most dangerous critter on the planet by introducing a new bacteria called Wolbachia. Wolbachia, when introduced in male mosquitos, makes them sterile. That is great for anyone who lives in areas that are high in mosquito-spread diseases like Zika, Yellow Fever, and Dengue Fever. Experiments are still in trials, but scientists are aiming their efforts at Florida in the near future. The goal for these scientists in not to eradicate the species but to be able to manage the populations of these suckers in mosquito “hot zones.” I hope Texas is next on the list for these experiments because BBQ season is right around the corner.
NOKIA'S BRINGING IT BACK:In an age of constant innovation where smaller and thinner are king, Nokia is finding traction going back to its roots. 17 years after the release of Nokia’s most popular cell phone, the 3310 model responsible for making the game Snake an American pastime, they are bringing the 3310 back in a big way. What’s their value proposition? Easy, simplicity. The announcement came with three points of focus (Love the three parts!): a battery that lasts a month, the game snake, and the classic Nokia ringtone. It has been fancied up a bit since its initial 2000 debut with some features that make it more relevant in today’s world. Don’t go thinking this phone is for you if you tweet, Instagram, or work extensively from your phone. But, with a $51 price tag, this is a great option for those looking to disconnect a bit.
KNOCK, KNOCK. IS ANYONE HOME?: This month NASA made an incredible discovery. Trappist- 1, a star not that far away from us (in terms relative to the infinity of space), has been discovered, and with it seven earth-like exoplanets. What’s really exciting about this discovery are the three planets in the “Goldie Locks zone,” planets that are not too hot and not too cold for the existence of life. The next step for scientists is to start measuring the atmospheres of these planets to understand whether or not life may exist there outside our pale blue dot. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start prepping for intergalactic war, but let’s be frank, this is pretty cool.
Pretty cool stuff ...
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