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  • Innovation: You have an Idea. Now What?

    By Bob Sanders |

    Bob Sanders, General Manager for our team in Arkansas, wraps up his three-part series with the final stages of the Innovation Cycle.

    In part two we discussed how to generate ideas and gather feedback. Now it’s time to make it a reality. 

    1. Idea development - make it happen You’ll enter this stage in one of two conditions: Either you have the authority and resources to make your idea a reality or you don’t. If you do – get to work! If you don’t, it’s time to craft a pitch. There are two critical things to understand when asking someone else to back your idea:
      • Be your idea’s harshest critic. You are asking another person to put their reputation and resources on the line for your idea. You need to think of every possible problem or objection your idea will create. Go back to your visuals from the previous step and refine them. Get more input. Rehearse your proposal. The bigger the “ask” the more time you should expect to put into the pitch.
      • Don’t take “no” personally. It is likely that your idea is competing with lots of other potential investments of resources or you may be asking the wrong person. If you get a lukewarm response, or even a “no,” see it as a “not now.” Put your work back in “The File” to reconsider another day.
    1. Idea Optimization - improve it or end it. Rarely does an idea launch in its final form. It is important to continually review and improve. Is it getting the anticipated results? What one change could be made to improve it? Tweak it, then step back and revisit. This never-ending loop is called Continual Improvement, and the bigger your idea the more of this you will need. What if your idea isn’t working? What if repeated changes and tweaks don’t make improvements, and your idea is consuming more resources than it is creating? Don’t be afraid – or too proud – to end it. Those cycles your idea is consuming are a tax on the energy you can put into new ideas.

    Relax - and go change the world
    When Lin Manual Miranda walked into that airport, was he frantically searching for an idea for his next play? Or was he totally checked out, ready to unplug and enjoy time away from stressful Broadway life? Perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle – he simply had his eyes open.

    So, go watch a TED Talk. Read a book. Check out a new podcast. It doesn’t have to be work related.

    Let your mind wander and it will find something you can make better.

    In Summary

    • Innovation is simple. It happens when you take a new idea and use it to make a positive change in the world.
    • People are drawn to new things. Bring a mindset for innovation to work with you each day. It’s a more rewarding (and fun) way to spend your days.
    • Almost every new idea started as an improvement on something else. Soak up the good ideas that exist around you and ask “what if...?”
    • Relax and unplug. Enjoy life away from work to give your mind space to recharge and do its best creative work.
    • Make innovation deliberate and repeatable. You can continually innovate by following a four-part “innovation cycle:”
      1. Come up with an idea. Write it down in a file. Keep your file handy at all times so you can record your ideas as they come to you.
      2. Get feedback from the people you trust. Ideas don’t improve with agreement – they get better with debate.
      3. Make it happen. Implement it if you have the authority and resources to make your idea a reality. If you don’t, it’s time to craft a pitch.
      4. Improve it or end it. Is your idea getting the results you wanted? Adjust, then step back and revisit. If it isn’t working, don’t be afraid – or too proud – to end it.


    If you are looking for new ideas, here are several helpful resources:

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