Ideas need to be great, not just good.
Ideas must have it pretty great, right? Born out of a wonderful collision creativity and logic, drifting around like a cloud at the speed of thought from one mind to the other. Just waiting to be expressed in reality. The life of an idea sounds almost too easy.
It’s not quite that simple. Because ideas compete with other another. They compete for attention, for belief and ultimately for the support to bring them from the concept to the concrete.
In Nosco’s daily business, we encounter hundreds of ideas as they participate in Idea Competitions. Here, companies ask their hundreds if not thousands of employees to share their ideas for the big topics or the sharp goals that companies are working on.
In this context, ideas are more like Formula One cars or race horses, jostling for the best position possible. These ideas are not drifting around. They’re racing. And very often, in a fast paced business world even good ideas can get lost, ending their lives on a Post-It or an online post that few bother to read. In other words, your ideas need help. Good is no longer good enough. Your idea has to be great.
The aim of this post is to give your ideas the best chances of getting that wonderful life. Hopefully helping them to make it into the real world and becoming vaulable innovations. To that end, we’ve observed 5 traits of the ideas that finish the race. Let’s get started.
Enter the idea machine
We’ll start with the conception of an idea. Most often, the reason that you “get” an idea, is because you’ve given your mind a problem to solve, a question to answer or challenge to meet.
When an idea first enters your brain, it is a pure concept. In the truest sense of the word, this is the moment of conception for your idea.
Let’s say you’ve been pondering over some technical challenge you have at work. You’re sitting in the train after a long day. Your mind begins to wander. Connections are made. And then it happens. Your right-brain function, the so-called creative side, comes up with an idea for a solution, and your logical, left side evaluates it, and goes :
”You know what….that…just might work. Yes! That’s it!”
This is known as the “eureka moment” or “aha moment”. And it is an awfully nice feeling.
Have you ever noticed the faces on stock photos of people getting ideas? You know, that picture with the lightbulb over the person’s head? They’re always smiling. Often with their mouth open.Finally, they’re pointing their index finger, as to say “Stop, wait, here it is – I’ve got it”.
What are these smiley, open mouths and pointed fingers trying to tell us? I would argue that it illustrates the association between that feeling of happiness and the discovery of a new, good idea. That’s because your brain fires off a shot of nice dopamine, rewarding us for having that good idea.
Your brain is hardwired to get good ideas. In fact, our species’ (and our companies) survival has always depended on getting ideas and acting on them. There you have it: Scientifically speaking, you are an idea machine. With that out of the way, here are the five steps from good to great for your ideas.
1. Brand your idea
“You can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – true. But it’s much more likely that the book will be picked up, read and therefore judged, if it has an attention-grabbing, inviting cover.
You can almost think of your idea as a brand. Giving your idea a brand will give it a better chance of success in life. So do the following for your idea.
- Give it a name. One that explains what is does or makes the reader want to know more.
- Give it an image. An inviting, memorable visual, that goes some way of explaining what it is.
Let’s assume that I’ve been getting annoyed at having to recharge my laptop all the time. Also I’ve been reading about kinectic energy. I’ve been wondering if my typing on my keyboard could help charge my battery? That’s my idea. And I’ve given it a short name that I like: “TypeCharge”.
Also, you do not have to be a Photoshop-pro to generate a good-looking visual. One tool that I can personally recommend is Pablo. It’s a web app, it’s provided free by the good people at Buffer. You can find it on pablo.buffer.com.
Here, I’ve used the app to generate a visual for my TypeCharge idea. It took around 3 minutes to get done.
2. Pitch your idea
The pitch should be the first thing people read in your description. Get to the core of your idea, so you can convey it to people, fast and so that they “get it”.
- If at all possible, your pitch should be a single sentence.
- Don’t get over-eager. You don’t have tell the whole story in that sentence. Your pitch should get people interested in learning about the full idea.
- Keep pitching. Work on it. Try out the pitch on different people. Tell it to your friends, colleagues over lunch, your cat and your mouse. It’s too easy to fall in love with your own idea, so you need say it out loud and you need to get feedback.
3. Use the familiar to explain the unfamiliar.
Analogies not only save time when explaining something – they can also evoke emotions. Use this to your advantage.
In the beginning of this post, I used the analogy of Formula 1 cars and Race Horses. That way, I hopefully managed to give you a lot of information in an easily digestible way. Use this method if you can. This goes both for your pitch and for the general description of your idea.
When AirBNB launched, they used the analogy of “eBay for space” to convey their idea and make it instantly comprehensible for audiences and investors. Today everyone seems to be launching a service that is the AirBNB of X or Uber of X. Could you do the same with your idea?
4. Show them the money
Let people know where you think the value of your idea is. The Value Proposition Tool is brilliant for this. Make sure that you use a paragraph or two by explaining all or some of the following statements about your idea. This will explicitly show readers how things would change for the better, when your idea makes it into the real world. This can also serve as an eye-opener to yourself, forcing you rethink your idea, so try to answer as many as possible:
- Who stands to benefit from your idea? This can be more than one stakeholder.
- What are the pains these stakeholders have?
- How does your idea relieve these pains?
- What is the value, monetary or otherwise, of getting this pain solved?
- What wins do these stakeholders stand to gain from your idea?
- How does your idea deliver these wins?
- What is the value, monetary or otherwise, of this win?
When going through these, try to be as specific as you can. Show it, don’t tell it.
5. Let go of your idea
Once the idea is born and we’ve made it look great, talk great and generally be great. Now comes the toughest part. It’s time to leave the nest. To some degree, you should let go of your idea. I’m not saying that you should wave goodbye to the idea – just that you should let it take flight. Namely, the input of others, and remaining open to taking your idea in new directions.
Do you know Slack? Slack started out as a communication tool used by a team of developers, while building an online game called Glitch, which was never released.
This is the pivot. This happens to startups a lot, because it happens to ideas a lot. Youtube was a video dating site, Twitter was a podcasting network, Nintendo made playing cards, Flickr started out as an adventure game and Instagram started out as a social check-in web app like FourSquare or Yelp, called Burbn.
Why am I telling you all this? To show you that whether your idea is for a product, a process, a new startup, a key to success is openness to change. In fact, you should even encourage it. Because change can lead ideas on to new unexpected paths. This openness gives your idea the best chance to grow.
- Explicitly ask for help and input, where you think you need it.
- Leave in open-ended questions about your idea. This could be the feasibility, competitors, experiences or undiscovered applicable areas for your idea.
There is another benefit to this. The more people involved with your idea, the harder they will work to attract even more attention to your idea, helping it grow bigger and smarter.
Empty nest. On to the next one.
Congratulations – your idea has flown the nest. But it’s yours. Be proud. Now go have a look at that room where your young idea was raised. Empty, right? Well, that just means that there is room for your new idea. Because you are an idea machine.