I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to generating ideas. There is nothing better than a blank sheet of paper, begging for new ideas. I can easily spend hours generating ideas for virtually any problem, challenge or creative need. Lucky for me, at SparkFire I work with clients to help them generate breakthrough ideas for their businesses. When it comes to my own ideas, I sometimes lose momentum when moving an idea from a concept in my mind to a creation in the world.
Admittedly, I have trouble turning off the idea switch. Ideas constantly flow into my head, tempting and distracting me, begging me for attention. Over the years I’ve learned to deliberately move from idea generation into idea implementation, using many of the techniques that we use with our SparkFire clients. If you’re an idea addict like me, here are some things you can do to move from imagination to action:
1. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Are you naturally more of an idea generator or an idea implementer? If you can relate to my earlier description, then you probably prefer to generate ideas. If you tend to run short of ideas but love to move ideas forward, you’re more likely to be an implementer. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses within the creative process is the first step to making great ideas happen.
2. Say “no” to say “yes”. Implementation starts with choosing one idea from your long brainstorming list. First, establish your criteria for success. Does the idea need to be executable within a short timeframe? Do you need an idea that fits within a fixed budget? Is there a specific target customer you’re trying to reach? Remember to say “no” to many ideas in order to have the time and resources to say “yes” to one.
3. Start small. Don’t start by executing your most ambitious idea. Train your brain to implement smaller ideas, every day. Just as SparkFire recommends that you exercise your creative brain every day, you can also finish a small part of a larger idea every day to tone your implementation muscle.
4. Be deliberate. Follow a deliberate process to move ideas from concept to creation. The steps in SparkFire’s creative process are: Focus, Imagine, Choose, Develop and Act. Spend time in the Choose, Develop and Act phases to move ideas forward. After you’ve chosen an idea, develop it by adding details and addressing any concerns. Refine some more. Then create an action plan for executing the idea.
5. If you don’t have time, it’s not a priority. Sometimes when one of my ideas doesn’t get traction, my default excuse is, “I just don’t have time to work on it.” We are all busy. Things get done when they become a priority. Schedule time each day to work on your idea.
6. If you don’t have the skills, get help. At some point in the implementation process you may find that you simply can’t move forward without the help of others. Find a co-worker with the implementation mindset to help. Hire someone to do those tasks that are beyond your skill set. When I realized that I couldn’t easily create a website to promote a new idea, I hired someone to help and the task got done.
7. Embrace your fears. When it comes to bringing new ideas into the world, we all have fears. Whether you are writing a book, developing a new product, training for a marathon or giving a speech, you’ll likely run into fear along the way. You may experience fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking stupid – you get the idea. Understand and embrace your fear to diffuse its power.
8. Remember your purpose. Sometimes when you are deep into the implementation process, you lose touch with your original excitement for an idea. It’s easy to lose motivation and momentum when you are six months into writing a book or on the fifth iteration of your new product idea. Close your eyes and remember the original purpose of your idea. Why is this a good idea? Why is it meaningful to you? Watch as the passion for the idea flows back into your implementation process.
9. Visualize the end product. If you’re more of a right brain thinker, you likely think in pictures and visualize ideas. When I’m mired in less enticing implementation tasks, I try to visualize the end product as a way to keep motivated. If you imagine your idea in the world, it’s more likely to get there.
1o. Celebrate along the way. Some ideas take months or years to complete. I like to celebrate successes along the way with special rewards – dinner out at a favorite restaurant, a massage, a day off to play. Break the implementation of your idea into smaller steps, reward yourself, then celebrate in a big way when your idea is complete.