Harnessing Your Brilliant Ideas
Linda Rottenberg was a recent college graduate when her mother overheard her plotting to build a business with a friend.
As she recalls, her mother shot her father one of those 'You've got to stop this' looks.
Soon after, Linda's dad came over with a gentle reminder that she needed to be financially responsible, and this idea of hers didn't sound like job security.
Today, Linda Rottenberg is the co-founder of Endeavour - a global non-profit that invests in high-growth businesses in emerging economies.
She's also a successful author.
But as she recalls, all of that could've ended over that 'kitchen-table-moment'.
As she puts it, "The best ideas don't die in the marketplace or in the laboratory—they die in the shower."
I can certainly relate to that.
Think about it; how many times have you had a stroke of inspiration in the shower? Grabbing coffee? Riding the elevator? Or just about anything other than work?
Now think about how many times you've stopped to write your ideas down.
It's way too easy to justify not writing your ideas down.
Maybe you didn't have a pen, or you're more of a visual person, or writing stuff down is for lame-os (my go-to excuse).
Here's another way to look at it.
Often the most inspired ideas go against the grain. They refuse to be held back by rational arguments about why you can't do it.
They're a bit crazy.
And sometimes, we don't permit ourselves to explore because the timing isn't right or [insert other justifiction] to keep ourselves from acting on a seemingly crazy idea.
Here's the thing: whatever you decide to believe in becomes true for you.
Here's the downside of it, though.
Dial yourself back for long enough, and you'll end up being the reason you held back.
Here's another truth, most companies are great at crushing inspired solutions and the people who come up with them.
It's not always due to bad culture or management.
The same fears that hold us back as individuals multiply and take over our shared corporate psyche.
So, what's the solution?
This idea is inspired by Spanx's Sara Blackey. This simple inspiration led her from selling fax machines door-to-door to creating a brand worth $400 million today.
She suggests, "Go home and look at fifteen things in your life and write them down on a piece of paper. Then write down how and why they could be better. You'll have probably a big idea right there on that sheet."
I've started doing that at work.
And I've set up a checklist in my Google Notes app, so it's no further than a swipe away from me at any given time.
The only thing remaining is to get into the habit of finding something to fix.
And I do mean fix, not just to point at and complain about.
In my 10+ years as an entrepreneur and consultant, I've never had a single week where I didn't find something to fix.
Consider Mark Cuban's advice:
You need curiosity—so you're always asking: Could this work? Could this be a business? Could this be the idea?
You need a bias to action—so when you spot an idea with potential, you move on it.
You need to collaborate—to tap the ideas and strengths of other people, so you can improve your idea and actualise it.