Four Clues To Discover If You Are A Really Big Idea Leader

I can’t help it.  I never stop thinking of ideas.  Ideas come in a flash when I least expect them and I need to write them down because I never know when a stroke of genious will hit and become the next big idea.  I have post-it notes everywhere, on my desk, on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, even the dashboard of my car.  Eventually, the post-it notes lose their stickiness and fall off, or stick to my shoe, or I discover my dog chewing post-it notes in the corner of the room (telltale signs of colored paper all around the room).  Of course, since generating ideas come naturally to me, I assumed that everyone is an idea generator and if encouraged, motivated, and supported could produce the next really big idea leading to innovation.   To my surprise, my assumption was wrong.

Generating Ideas

A few years ago, as a manager, I once was tasked with finding new, innovative ways to work with clients.  I led a team of 15 employees and challenged them to initiate 3 ideas a week, the crazier, the better.  To make the challenge fun, I created a little competition among the team with weekly prizes and a colorful race track poster depicting their weekly speed of ideas.  When the challenge was posed to the team, there were many moans and groans about trying to generate that many ideas each week.  Several employees truly believed that my request was outrageous and they could never think of that many ideas.  But as the weeks progressed, enthusiasm increased, and the environment, once idea deprived, became a hub of idea generation.  By the end of one month, a total of 300 ideas were generated and many ideas could have led to true innovation.  Like my post-it notes, many of the ideas were eventually discarded or abandoned and very few produced any real outcome.  As I reflected on the situation,  what I discovered is that although many ideas were available, developing action toward changing an idea to a solution required a different approach that was not familiar or readily accepted in the current environment because it was not the usual mode of operation.

The Real Challenge  

Without a doubt, ideas are a leader’s best friend because ideas are the basis for innovation.  An idea stirs the imagination, energizes a team, and can be a solution to a problem.  Ideas are everywhere, yet for all the ideas that are imagined, how many actually materialize, turn into action steps, and create unbelievable organizational change? For many leaders, generating ideas is not a problem. The challenge is being able to execute an idea and converting it to a really big idea that has the ability to transform everything and become a turning point for present and future success.  While there may be many reasons that can hinder innovation, one of the most difficult  may  be that the organizational culture is not be designed for creativity, idea sharing, or risk taking.  Therefore, the really big idea leader’s attempts to move an idea from an image to reality is stuck in inertia and met with resistance and obstacles.  To build a foundation for an innovative culture requires patience and persistence and, if you already possess innovative leadership skills, you have a leading advantage.

The Four Clues

imagesSH19HT7I idea leaderAre you a really big idea leader?  Here are four clues from really big idea leaders who changed the world and sharing their thoughts about leading the really big idea will help you decide if you are or have the potential to be a really big idea leader.

 At Microsoft  there are lots of brilliant ideas but the image is that they all come from the top-I’m afraid that’s not quite right.  Bill Gates

  •  You encourage and empower employees to share ideas, make mistakes, and try new approaches.  In my research, The Dyadic Relationship between an Executive Director and Board Chair during Turbulent Times  and working with a variety of leaders, ideas, or really a lack of ideas shared between the Executive Director and Board Chair, were described as a negative factor in building a positive relationship in leading the organization.  With this assumption in mind, ideas are viewed as a top down activity.  Instead, the really big idea is generated from the bottom up.

 If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.  Albert Einstein

  •  All ideas, regardless of the feasibility of the idea, are met with enthusiasm.  The purpose of mutual enthusiasm is to create a culture of change and innovation, thereby, encouraging endless ideas because the really big idea will not be one idea.  Instead the really big idea will be a combination of many ideas tailored to address a need aligned with the mission.

Of all of the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.  Walt Disney

  •  The really big idea is an organization wide activity, not a task for a select few.  Involving everyone in the really big idea from beginning to successful outcome is leadership development in its finest form and the outcome will provide the organization with many leaders to continue to drive the big idea.

But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots hole in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.  Steve Jobs

  •  You devote much time to breaking down obstacles and removing limitations so that the path to progress is not stifled.  Of course, not every obstacle can be tackled and if not addressed can lead to really big idea failure.  When that occurs, you work around the obstacle. With constant moving, the obstacles get smaller as the idea gets bigger and bolder.

Truly, the really big ideas are the building blocks of innovation. Long term sustainability is highly dependent on the really big idea.  When a really big idea flows from thought to planning to action, great things happen.  A simple idea born from a need, nurtured with support, and executed with full gusto can lead an organization to unbelievable success.  So, did the clues help you to discover your really big leadership skills?   You have the ability to become a really big idea leader all you need is an absurd idea and a discontent with the status quo.  And, of course, passion, energy, and enthusiasm.





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