It is a question heard around the world. “Where did all of those great ideas go?”

Like most people, I find it intrinsically satisfying to share ideas that can improve how we carry out our vocation and life. But, while this exchange of ideas is a fundamental component of knowledge and life — bringing those ideas to life can prove challenging. Many of us have the opportunity to share ideas; whether in team meetings, off-site conferences or brainstorming sessions. But, what really happens to all of those promising ideas once collected? While we place great emphasis on innovation in today’s world — the fact remains that many worthy ideas will never see the light of day. I would venture to say that many organizations have a back-log of great ideas, untouched and undeveloped. Ultimately, we do a good job of generating ideas. But utilizing them effectively… now that can be quite a different story. Forward progress is just as much about managing the ideas we generate, than any other element in the dynamic. Many worthy ideas fail to become reality, because we fail to utilize a process robust enough to properly select and implement them effectively. In many cases, we are hindered as to how to wade through that mountain of collected ideas. One key problem is the tendency to view idea management as a spontaneously occurring event — when in fact; we need to employ a winning process to ensure success. A few topics to consider:

• Build Trust.

In the cultural scheme, if there isn’t an adequate level of trust and co-operation within a team, it is nearly impossible to evaluate and implement ideas effectively. To begin evaluating ideas, the stage has to be set for an open and honest discussion. If we are wary of bucking authority and voicing all sides of the story, we can land in trouble. Pixar calls this cultural element the “Brain-trust” which is the notion of offering an “unvarnished” opinion to move idea development along effectively.

• Complete An Investigation.

Carefully consider worthy ideas that never reached their full potential — what caused this to happen? Was the idea not properly communicated? Inadequately defined roles in the field? Lack of data concerning value? Use this information strategically, going forward.

• Connect Ideas With Mission & Vision.

An idea floating in the stratosphere can have little meaning. So, offer context, to properly identify the ideas potential. Attempt to connect an idea with desired end-result that aligns with your mission and vision. How can the idea provide a route to a valued goal?

• Narrow The Field.

At some point we have to focus on the ideas that are worthy enough to devote valuable time and resources. For that to occur, you must develop selection criteria relevant to your team and the situation at hand. (For example, ideas that meet an urgent need or those with the greatest potential to impact.) Without these criteria, you cannot move forward. • Don’t look for a single “winner”. The trouble we often encounter with developing ideas is we tend to narrow the focus quite quickly to one path — when it’s likely there is more than one great idea circulating. One idea really does not have to “win”? You can often combine ideas, to enhance product development or service improvement.

• Capture Potential Value.

To drive your idea home, take the time to draft an “action case” which adds dimension and clearly outlines future benefits. This can serve as an integral step in the evaluation process.

• Find An Owner.

Yes, just like people, ideas need guidance and care to develop fully. So identify an owner — and make this choice by aligning with interests and passion. Offer the role to a team member who believes in the idea, and can envision its potential.

• Give Things Time.

Great ideas have the potential to turn the normal state of affairs “upside down” and trigger a powerful emotional response. As discussed here, ideas need to be fully digested before we can act on them effectively. Take this into consideration when delivering ideas and planning their implementation phase. A little patience may be the magic ingredient. What strategies are you utilizing to manage ideas, which in turn will bring them alive to serve our world?


from an article written by – Dr. Marla Gottschalk an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.

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