Whatever your discipline or the industry in which you work, you have likely thought of a truly innovative idea at some point in your career.
Rather than putting that idea into practice and creating something memorable or valuable, however, you may have let it sit on the sidelines for a while, or thought it wasn't all that great or that you would wait for the next big opportunity. Hey, it's happened to all of us.
But guess what? The next big idea or opportunity likely isn't going to just present itself to you. If you are one of the lucky .0001% of the business population who actually is sitting on the next big idea, congratulations! We look forward to hearing about it.
But if you're among the rest of us, understand that there are a lot of really good, somewhat-smaller ideas that never get put to use.
(A good analogy: There are very few home runs to be had. But there are a lot of doubles. And, sometimes, what you think may be just a double can turn into an inside-the-park home run.)
I'm not advocating that you abandon the search for a big idea; rather, I'm advising that you think of the potentially great ideas you have had in your career and then consider why you passed on them.
Take Control of Your Ideas Today
The ability to make something remarkable happen with your big, innovative ideas is invigorating—and, more important, very possible.
Think of things you have thought of doing before; everyone has a passion for something—a cause or idea that keeps you awake at night, but in an exciting, motivating way. The hard part is turning that passion into a working initiative, since it takes more effort to do something new than what you always have done.
As marketers, we have an advantage. We are often charged with coming up with creative initiatives that tap into a target audience's passions. But how do you tap into your own career passions in a way that drives your business's goals while also driving your professional and personal goals?
That can be a difficult balance to achieve, but here's an example based on personal experience. I began a project in late 2009 to create a custom magazine, published by my employer, Epic Advertising, for the online-marketing, online-advertising, and general digital-business industries called Winning the Web.
The magazine—a print publication to provide thought leadership about digital businesses, without an ad sales model—was quite a departure from our core business.
Putting Your Idea Into Practice
The initiative crystallized for me when I began thinking about what my passions were and how I could leverage them in my job and for my company.
I was passionate about leadership, teaching, writing, formulating and then growing unique ideas, providing alternate viewpoints, and surprising people or uniquely going against the grain.
Next: the business plan. You have to consider not only dollars and cents but also opportunity costs. I knew that the project would be, initially, an added expense, so I moved some of Epic's marketing budget around to accommodate the costs.
But could I make my idea a reality and still do my day job the best I knew how while giving the new idea its best shot at working and becoming accretive to the business?
I found some colleagues at Epic who shared similar passions. Initially, I and one or two others did most of the work to launch the magazine. That was a key finding: Recruit those within your professional network who share your interests and passion, and give them enough responsibility that they become vital to the idea's success.
Early on, it is also important to establish a process to ensure the initiative is executed well. For us, it came down to asking, "Who is going to design our in-house ads?" "Who is going to write certain monthly columns?" and "Who is going to do the editing?"
Once you figure out the who and the how, it's time to put your ideas and plans into action. Get moving!
As you continue to develop the initiative, be sure to establish pre- and post-launch benchmarks. I recommend two or three short-term goals and one long-term goal.
For Winning the Web, I wanted to increase our mailing list and subscriber base by double-digit percentages and to work with and feature some of the world's most innovative and thought-provoking companies—all by the six-month mark.
Finally, you have to have fun with your high-reaching goals and initiatives. Some people may scoff at your idea or say it's too lofty—even more reason for you to dive right in to accomplishing great things.
For me and Epic, this particular idea-turned-new-business is the most fun part of my job. It hits at the core values I'm most passionate about, so it benefits both me (professionally) and my company (from a business-extension standpoint).
Here are seven key steps you can take to ensure your great idea becomes a success:
- Figure out what makes you tick, what makes you passionate about your career, or what you see in your industry that you really enjoy and think you can add value to.
- Create a business plan. It should go beyond the necessary dollars-and-cents analysis and include a how your idea will benefit your company, your job, and your target audiences.
- Figure out the "who"—who else in your company or industry might share your passions and ideas. Develop a "who's on board" list of people who might be willing to help bring your idea to market.
- Once you have people on board, figure out—with them—the "how," or the process via which you'll make your idea a success.
- Establish key goals or benchmarks—two or three short-term targets and one long-term target.
- Finally, when you're ready, figure out how you will tell your story to people who may be interested. If your idea is a good one, then it is your responsibility to share it with them.
- Have fun. When ideas or projects cease being fun, the passion dries up and, typically, the end product suffers.
The bottom line: Don't wait! If you're passionate about something and you have an idea that just won't go away, now is the time to explore it and to make something remarkable happen.