Let’s call this the ‘GREAT IDEA HIGHWAY.’
It’s empty now, waiting until you have a new idea
and start to generate the fuel
to reach a worthwhile destination.
Track Your Progress As You Turn An Idea Into Reality
Let’s say it takes 20 gallons of ‘idea fuel’ to reach your destination on the ‘GREAT IDEA HIGHWAY.’ Your destination is an achievement that will enhance both your individual value to your organization and your organization’s value to its stakeholders. But you don’t get to fill up with a full tank at the start of the journey – you have to earn ‘idea fuel’ as you move along the ‘GREAT IDEA HIGHWAY.’
Be An Idea Generator
You get one gallon of fuel for every idea that pops into your head. A gallon won’t take you a great distance and as you start down the highway, you’ll notice a lot of stalled ideas that didn’t get very far. But that’s okay, because you know it takes many ideas to come up with a just a handful of good ones. The ideas that don’t go very far become lessons learned – stepping stones and possible points of synergy for the ideas that pick up speed.
You get more fuel for your journey when your idea generates inspiration and commitment in others. The more inspiring the idea, the farther your fuel allotment will carry you. When others catch the inspiration and add their energy to the commitment, you discover that you’ve earned enough fuel to travel all the way to the next station.
Plan the Journey
That’s the Planning Station. An idea by itself can look and sound pretty good, but it can’t make the journey along the highway without a plan. Examine the benefits your idea can generate and make a practical and detailed plan to realize those benefits.
Without a plan, most ideas veer off the highway. The plan begins with your goal – you identify what the reward will be when you arrive at the destination. Then you decide what it will take to make this journey and who will ride along with you to share the work. A good plan is worth another five gallons of idea fuel to propel you down the highway.
That planning fuel will let you move forward under power to the Action Station! Some idea drivers fall in love with the planning process and keep adding to the plans, thrilled by how expansive their idea looks from the starting line. They drive in circles around action until they run out of fuel and never actually put their plans into action. There are detours, potholes, and all kinds of of distracting rest stops along the Great Idea Highway. A good driver learns from the detours, fills the potholes, and lingers at just enough rest stops to take care of him or herself, but never loses sight of the destination.
You’d think that the fuel you get for taking action would get you to the destination, but it doesn’t. You need a final five gallons to complete your idea’s journey – to actually put the idea into practical use and make it part of what you deliver for your organization.
Getting others involved early in the process makes delivery easier. When the thrill of the idea is credited to your entire team, they own the idea and have a vested interest in making it a reality. If planning is shared and many people have input into how the idea will be realized, each one of those planners becomes committed to its success. When a lot of workers contribute to the action phase, they feel like leaders and not just grunts with an assignment.
To ensure quality, ownership, and delivery – make every step a team responsibility. If any phase of an idea’s inspiration, planning, development, and realization has been hidden from the team that will use the idea, then delivery turns into a long drive to circle back and pick up the passengers you missed when you passed this way before. A phase is hidden from the team when it gets set aside for individual credit and bragging.
Know Your Role
Some people just like to generate ideas – they call themselves ‘blue sky thinkers’ and are known as ‘idea people.’ They are listened to for ideas and often even the planning phase, but without a habit of transitioning into action, they don’t have the influence to really lead an organization.
Others are inclined toward action and are willing to be guided into action – but they often don’t show confidence in their own ideas. The voice of possibility whispers into their ears as often as it whispers into the ears of idea people – but without the advantages of curiosity and self-trust, too many people tell their ideas, “shut up – I’m trying to listen” and all they hear is other people’s ideas in the form of instructions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because ideas do need an action team to move along the highway.
The final stretch of the highway is the leader’s test – putting the idea into practical application with communication and vision to make others comfortable and invested in creating long-term success. Some ideas get through the action phase, but coast to a stop before completing delivery.
How Far Can You Drive?
You’re a skilled idea driver when you can drive all four sections of the highway, generating a plethora of ideas from which to choose the few worth making happen with well-laid plans and solutions for the potholes that could jar the idea loose, being willing to get down and dirty to get the job done, and using leadership to deliver the results.
Using the highway metaphor, you get five gallons of fuel each for:
- An Idea with true organizational value.
- A Plan with a clear objective.
- Consistent Action to make the plan tangible.
- Delivery – putting the idea to work.
It takes all 20 gallons of ‘idea fuel’ to reach your destination on the GREAT IDEA HIGHWAY. A lot of seemingly good ideas run out of gas before they cross the finish line, but idea drivers who know how to earn their fuel as they go become known for more than just having good ideas. They’re known for taking their ideas from concept to reality – they’re called ACHIEVERS!