Monday, November 28, 2011

7 Steps to Make Your Great Ideas Succeed

Photo by nrkbeta

There are more PCs than Macs.

There are more Android phones than iPhones.

Whichever platform you personally prefer, the Apple products have had a major impact regardless of their smaller market share - you don't have to be the biggest or most prolific in order to be successful with a game-changing idea.

You might be frustrated at times when your big idea isn't adopted right away. You know vision and innovation are important, but how do you take those great ideas and give them a chance to become reality? 

Here are 7 steps to make your great ideas succeed:

1) Start small

Pilot everything - try the idea with as small a group as possible. This might be one person...or one team...or one classroom...or one building - whatever the smallest practice unit might be and for which you have responsibility. Start with people who can buy-in to the concept and implement it. Even if that is just you to begin with.

2) Learn from successes and failures

In your pilot effort, note what worked and, most importantly, try to determine why it worked. It's not always what you think. Then look at what didn't work. Can you make corrections?

3) Course correct and try again

Implement your lessons learned from successes and failures and try again...maybe with two or three pilot units. Are things working as you envisioned? If not, continue in steps 1 - 3 until you're comfortable to you can demonstrate results. Invite people, without pressure, to see what you're doing. Start with opinion leaders and those who you know have similar problems.

4) Quantify and qualify results

Take time to demonstrate the impact of your great idea. Tell the human story and show the numbers. For someone who has never thought this way before, what benefits does your idea have? What problems does it solve? In your pilots, you should have obtained some numbers and good stories.

5) Manage up and sideways

If you're a growing leader with great ideas, this might be a challenging step. You want to win support for your concept.

Begin with the values and problems of your coworkers and supervisors. What is important to them - how does your idea reinforce those values? What problems do they have - how does your concept solve their problems?

Note: If your big idea requires that the organization or your supervisors change their values or adopt problems they don't currently see or care about, this step requires a great deal more time and work. Start with education - "Did you know...? How do you feel about...? Have you considered...?" Present challenges and data in terms of their existing values and problems. Being pushy and self-righteous will not help you accomplish your goal.

If your idea is a good one and you can implement it, continue demonstrating the data and results. In time, you will be ready for:

6) Implementation

If your idea is adopted or you get the responsibility to take it further, this is a critical step: don't let a good idea wither by neglecting your "whys" and "whats"!

6a) Why

First, have "why" conversations with those responsible for implementing this idea. They have their own values and their own problems. Why should they care about your great idea? In fact, at this point it's no longer "your" idea - now it's an opportunity for everyone to be [safer / more effective / save money / make money / enjoy work / etc.]

Don't skip this step! Your idea relies on others understanding why they are doing it. People (including you and me) do what we have a personal interest in doing. This is one of the reasons you want to expose people to the idea during the pilots, to build excitement and personal connection.

6b) What

Once the "why" is very clear and people are invested in the solution, then move to the "what" - how to implement the great idea. What knowledge and resources do people need? What skills?

7) Monitor and Feedback
Just as you did during your pilots, keep an eye on what is and is not working. Don't ignore feedback you receive. Something that worked in the pilot might not make sense with a larger implementation. As you monitor and receive feedback, implement what you learn. As needed, revisit "whys" and "whats" - do they still make sense? Make changes as needed.

Size Isn't Everything

I began this post by referencing the smaller market share owned by Apple's computers and phones - your idea doesn't have to be used by everyone to change the world.

Take pride in your ideas and give them a chance to succeed. You might just revolutionize your organization or the world!

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I Looked for the Dry Places

Take care,

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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