Turning Ideas Into Impact: Why Ideas Don’t Need to be Earth Shattering to be Impactful
Last week, I shared a funnel that I recently drafted while thinking about the things growing companies can do to turn new ideas into massive long-term impact. If you missed it, click here to check it out. And don’t make fun of my artistry. It’s the content that matters, right?
The big question I asked in that first post was this:
How can early stage companies take new ideas, experiment and execute them, and ultimately turn them into something that can have a massive long-term impact?
It’s no surprise that the most profitable and fastest growing businesses in the world also tend to be its greatest innovators, too. Look at Apple, SalesForce, Google, and Amazon. All of those companies are idea masters — kings of uncovering the products, processes, markets, or tactics that have ultimately allowed them to create massive impact and growth.
Thing is, they didn’t get that way by being lucky or passive. They’re highly dedicated to new idea generation and their company culture centers around and focuses on it. As the Harvard Business Review’s Jason Sylva writes in this post (with some help from The Innovator’s DNA authors Clay Christensen and Hal Gregersen), “Creativity and innovative thinking are not genetic traits. What makes people great innovators is … a set of skills and behaviors. The good news: anyone can learn, practice, and master (them).”
More or less, that was the point of sharing the Impact Funnel last week — to highlight OpenView’s own process and practices for creating massive, long-term impact. So, let’s start working our way through it, beginning with the key first step: idea generation.
In my first post, I shared the story of OpenView’s newsletter creation (proof that ideas don’t have to be earth shattering to be impactful). The key takeaway from our experience was that we considered several possible initiatives that we thought would help differentiate our firm, expand our network, and allow us to better engage with our “prospects” and “customers.” Those were our goals and the newsletter was the idea we thought could help impact them
Now, it’s important to remember that not all ideas are created equal. When you begin brainstorming ideas to drop into the “Impact Funnel,” you should do it with your long-term goals in mind. Ask whether the ideas you’re generating ACTUALLY have the potential to create massive impact on that goal. If they don’t or they’re too loosely tied to your goals, move on to something else.
For example, maybe you’re looking at your revenue forecast for next quarter and the things you can identify as predictable aren’t going to be enough to help you reach that goal. Work backwards from there. What can you do that will help drive revenue? Should you enter a new market? Add a new lead generation rep to your marketing team? Change a step in your sales process that will make it more effective?
Lastly, make sure that your company culture openly supports idea generation and creative thinking.
If your employees don’t feel comfortable suggesting with new ideas (or aren’t prompted to do it), you’re going to find this process a heck of a lot more difficult. Tony Schwartz makes a great point in an article for HBR, suggesting that companies need to make time every day (or week) for idea generation. Creative thinking, Schwartz says, needs open-ended, uninterrupted time.
- Talk to people from other industries about issues they face and how they have resolved them. Think about how you might apply these ideas at your company.
- Stay in touch with and learn from customer needs.
- Look at your competitors. Examine their mistakes and learn from them. Figure out where they are lacking, and generate ideas to fill that space.
- Examine past project failures to guide future actions.
So, now you have ideas. Drop them into the funnel (or as OpenView founder Scott Maxwell commented on my last blog post, push them up through it) and get ready to experiment to see what does or doesn’t work.
That experimentation and testing process will be the topic of my next post, but feel free to share some of your own idea generation tips and experiences in the comments section! I’m sure there’s plenty you can teach me, too.