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.
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.
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.
Are 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.
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.