Recently, the New Directions team had another greatopportunity to be involved with the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur Boot Camp. I had the specific pleasure to read the 15 business reports from the class and be one of the panelists in the final presentation and judging of each report. Reading and reviewing the presentations, it’s apparent that these people still need to form some of their operational processes, tighten their core value to customers, create a timeline of business development – in a sense, these participants still need to form some of their business “sea legs.”
However, here is what I’ve liked about every single person I’ve had the pleasure to coach through the 3 seasons we’ve been asked to judge. They all get their ideas to go, to move, “to ship.” Think about it. These seriously courageous people have plenty of opportunity to say “no” to that nagging voice in the back of their heads telling them to drop the idea and yet, against the odds, they say “yes.” They say yes to that gut feeling, that creative bug that won’t let them sleep at night. For me, it’s sheer amazement the “chutzpah” these people have to move their pie-in-the-sky idea to an actual business plan, take a 10 week course at night, and hopefully be a place of service to others.
The amazement on my part probably comes from the hard-to-swallow fact that I have ideas that perhaps I don’t ship, that I don’t bring to ‘go-mode.’ In fact, I’m willing to bet that you have ideas in this quagmire place of your brain too. We all have ideas, talent, creativity, and thoughts and, more than not, we’re just scared to tell anyone else about them. In Seth Godin’s newest book, Poke the Box, he addresses this initial fear in all of us (a fear built from many years of conformity and mediocrity) and speaks to the notion of getting your ideas to a starting point. He argues that our biggest problem isn’t financing, resources or even a lack of good ideas. Our biggest problem is that we stink at telling ourselves to go for it. He talks about the 7 imperatives of initiative building which include: being aware (of the market, of opportunities, of who we are), being educated, being connected, being consistent, building an asset, and being productive. Those are 6 and we’re usually pretty good at those. The 7th imperative is the one we struggle with. The 7th imperative is “to have the guts and the heart and the passion to ship.” Godin uses “start,” “ship,” “go,” and “move” interchangeably as a way to describe pushing ideas to exposure. Godin humorously points out that each company should have a “VP of Starting” – although joking, not a bad idea as many organizations are scrambling to either be the next big thing, invent the next iPad or be of some sort of value in an increasingly disenfranchised consumer world.
Here are some of our current thoughts on innovating – moving an idea to fruition and how you might as an owner, manager, leader or single entrepreneur bring your ideas to ship:
1) Doubling – most people think the idea or the new product has to be right or correct (without flaw) straight out of the gate. Doubling is the idea that you innovate on your way to innovation; you should always be tinkering with the idea to make it better.
2) You have to conquer risk – the elementary reason we don’t ship our ideas is because of the risk involved. The lack of taking risks is caused by fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking ignorant/dumb/stupid/incompetent/out there. We avoid risk because we’ve been trained to avoid failure. “Failure is not an option” – well, maybe it is and maybe it’s okay? Godin calls this having “brand humility” – having the capacity for your company to be OK with innovating and making mistakes along the way. Until we can swallow our fear of failure (and pride), our ideas will never ship.
3) Show up – we have an in-house motto at our office: “show up, on time, ready to go.” The mere idea of just showing up is half the battle in moving your ideas to ship. Much of the success of innovative organizations is their ability to show up, on time, with the proper tools (people, skills, technology, etc.) to be successful. Did you know, Isaac Asimov wrote and published more than 400 books by typing nonstop from 6am to noon, everyday, for 40 years? Showing up, on time, ready to go.
4) Have an insatiable desire to understand how something works and how it might work better – in Poke the Box, Godin writes, “Curiosity can start us down a path to shipping, to bringing things to the world, to examining them, refining them, and repeating the process again.” We have to constantly have our receptors out there for new ideas and continuous learning opportunities. At New Directions we usually call this the continuous learning itch (and having a platinum membership at Barnes & Noble). Innovative curiosity is best demonstrated as we bear witness to Steve Jobs making a better PC experience, Starbucks making a better coffee experience, Google making a better search engine experience, and Zappos making a better customer service experience.
5) Pushing an idea and presenting a concept will take a clear demonstration of the idea’s dissatisfaction with the current status quo. Why is your idea important and how will it change things for the better? It will then take a clear vision of where you intend to take us with this new idea. Paint us a roadmap of where your idea is going. Finally, what are the first steps of how you’re going to accomplish your idea? What is the timeline, strategy and where can we help? In the end, the idea is no good unless it can be communicated to others (download a One Page Strategy).
6) To create a clear vision you will need to work the idea, stretch it, massage it, marinate it, test it and refine it. This is why NDCBlogger exists. It helps us work our ideas out, to refine our approach, enhance our craft, receive feedback and stay in touch with the market.
7) Institute “think sessions.” Josh Linkner recently wrote a post in Fast Company about instilling creativity throughout one’s week. He suggests that we should take 5% of our 40 hour work week and unplug from the tactical chores of business, letting our minds wander creatively. I always think that reading, note taking, waking up early, gardening or going to the beach all count as part of my think sessions – those times when it’s just you and your thoughts. Maybe some quiet time in the morning with a coffee and a pad of paper is your “think session.” I know our president uses her gardening time as a way to unplug, using that time to think and create.
At this point, you might be thinking “but I’m not that creative.” Hugh MacLeod, author of Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, would argue that you are creative (“everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten,” he writes). He goes on to say, “if you don’t see yourself as particularly creative, that’s not reality, that’s a self-imposed limitation. Only you can decide whether you want to carry that around with you forever.”
8) Your idea, creativity and talent are only on loan – In a great TED talkabout creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the origins of creativity or what the ancient Romans called “a Genius.” A Genius used to be thought of as a spirit that came over someone and assisted the artist with his/her work. This artist was only a vessel that the “genius” worked through. Frank Sinatra once said of talent, “Talent must not be wasted. Those who have it must hug it, embrace it, nurture it and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.” So remember, it may be your great idea, but inspiration is only on loan to you. You may only get this one time to ship it. Don’t miss your chance.
I’d love to hear how you handle your ideas or creativity. What works best for you; any suggestions for our readers?
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