Making Ideas Take Flight

Any business ever created began first as a simple thought. Ultimately, that idea made its way out of a person’s mind and resulted in the formation of a company. The company’s evolution then came about through a constant collection of thoughts, first from the creator of the business, and then from the people added along the way who shared the vision for what the business would do, how it would operate, and what would be the best way to successfully deliver something of value. It was critical for the business to be profitable so that it could sustain itself (and others) and rewarding so that everyone in the business could experience a sense of worth and satisfaction that what they were doing had a positive impact on others and the community.

Every person in a business, whether they believe it or not, has powerful ideas that could have a great impact on value, profits, and rewards. However, good thoughts can often remain trapped inside someone’s head because they are fearful of putting them forward, or they can be ignored by others who could do something with them. Worse still, everyone could agree that an idea is a winner, yet no action is taken to give it life.

In his autobiography, Richard Branson describes a notebook he has used his entire life. The notebook always stays with him, and, in it, he scribbles down every idea that comes into his mind. Many people write down ideas; however, what makes Branson so uniquely successful is his determination to bring those ideas to life by acting on them. He never lets a good idea go to waste. Instead, Branson immediately gathers different perspectives by debating his ideas with others, which adds new insight into his thinking. Branson has assembled a cast of people around him who are not shy about providing feedback, even if it is not necessarily what he wants to hear. Having robust discussions with others forces Branson to check himself on whether the idea merits a full-on pursuit. Of course, there are occasions when Branson will pursue an idea even when others have advised against it, but he always listens and is willing to change his mind when the evidence is clear that it is not worth pursuing.

Branson is always open to listening to new ideas, no matter who it comes from or how it appears in front of him. He does not own the corner where all good ideas exist, but his greatest attribute is being able to make ideas take flight, just like Virgin Airlines and the dozens of other successful businesses that are under his Virgin brand. When an idea is deemed to have enough merit for a pursuit, then all resources and effort go into making it a reality. It is doggedly pursued, in fact, especially when the unexpected things happen that make it harder to implement than anyone predicted, which is almost always the case.

New ideas are the lifeblood of our world, not just of a business. The ability to generate new thoughts and ideas remains only in the realm of human beings. No computer or robot has been blessed with the gift of imagination, and no software program can have a vision to create something from which there was nothing before. It is this differentiating gift of limitless creativity and the ability to imagine, to make the impossible possible, that allows people to build new things and adapt to an ever-growing, ever-changing environment. Everyone speaks of the demise of professions such as accounting, due to the advent of technology. Yet this way of thinking fails to consider how adaptable and creative people are. True, some tasks of professionals will go away, but what will also happen is that smart people, such as accountants, are going to take flight and find new and better ways to provide ever higher levels of service that generate more value to the business owners who will pay for these services.

The evolution of business, with its constant change, is in truth a godsend, as it brings about new and improved ways of doing things and provides every person with the opportunity to put forth ideas that make something better.

The following are six suggestions for making ideas take flight:

1. Be an Idea Incubator

Be an incubator of ideas and make it part of the firm culture to challenge people to generate new ideas for bringing about change and thus improving the way things are done.

2. Get Ideas Out of Peoples’ Heads

There is so much untapped brainpower in everyone’s firm that it is sad to consider how many good thoughts are never heard, let alone considered for the business. People need to feel safe in bringing forward ideas; one way to do that is by thanking and appreciating people when they do come forward with good ideas and recognizing them publicly when their idea is used.

The alternative is a trap that is set, which will ultimately make a business stale when it continues to do things the way they have always been done. Even then most cutting-edge processes will eventually become outdated when the environment changes but the firm stops adapting to change.

Make it a habit to ask people what they think, encourage them to think outside the box, and reward those who do.

3. Develop a Forum and Criteria for Debating an Idea

By establishing a formal vetting process for new ideas, you will make sure that people are comfortable speaking out, as they believe that their ideas will be heard, discussed, and moved forward if they are deemed worthy of pursuing. Some may say they don’t want to quash peoples’ ideas by saying no to them, and this is a risk, unless a set of criteria can be established that fit the mission of the firm and helps determine whether to move forward or not. Richard Branson uses three criteria when debating an idea for a new business venture: will it create value and is a need in the marketplace, can it be profitable given time and resources, and will it be fun?

Establish the firm’s idea criteria so that people understand what constitutes a quality idea worthy of investment.

4. Develop a Culture of Idea Implementation

If an idea has gone through the gauntlet of being generated, heard, fully debated, and it is decided that it will be pursued, it is only right that great care is taken to ensure the idea is given every opportunity to be successful. This means having a leader in place who is passionate about the idea and will drive it forward. Furthermore, it means providing the necessary investments of people, time, and money. Too often good ideas are begun only to be abandoned at the first sight of difficulty as people turn their focus to other things. They have not been given the time to devote to this new idea because of other responsibilities.

People truly believing in something is more powerful than any combination of firm resources. Take a single idea, just one, that people are highly confident in, and bring the forces of the firm together to make it successful. After experiencing success with implementing such an idea, people will begin to feel and know that change can happen. They will start to see it as a way that the firm operates and most importantly, they will believe it can be done and will eventually come to expect that new ideas will be successful.

5. Diversify the Firm

A firm that only employs a certain group of people with a certain education and with a particular background of experiences will struggle to generate the kinds of thought-provoking, stop-the-presses, impactful ideas that are needed to cause true, lasting change. In fact, a firm such as this is unlikely to change much at all over the course of time. It can be argued that travel is life’s best education, as it transforms perceptions and brings new ways of thinking and different cultural perspectives into any situation. Firms with a diversity of thinking that is not only tolerated but promoted as a cultural norm has an ability to generate broader levels of thought and will be more prepared to deal successfully with their changing environment.

6. Accept Failure and Learn from It

The genesis for many, if not all, of the world’s greatest innovations was a series of failures. Success didn’t come until enough lessons were learned and the right combination of things came together at the right time to make the innovation stick. The same will be true of any firm involved in creating and deploying new ideas. Minimize the risk of any new idea by following the formula of Richard Branson: create a set of criteria for vetting ideas and reducing risks, and then work harder than ever to make the new idea a success. Things will rarely work out exactly as they were been planned, and that’s okay. Adjust and be ready to change if necessary. And have fun!

Next Steps

For more tips on how to bring your ideas to life and create further  success, please Contact Us to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. The Rainmaker Companies can help you Grow Your FirmGrow Your Practice, or Grow Your Self.

Patrick Pruett – Executive Vice President at The Rainmaker Companies