Chris Thomason on how to select and combine the best creative ideas to allow flexibility and adaptability of work in progress
When you’ve got one big issue you need to overcome, and lots of ideas that have the potential to address it – you’ve now got a second big problem. Which idea do you choose? When it’s difficult to determine the best course of action to take, try this four-step approach.
1. Craft your win quicklies
In an increasingly impatient business world, quick-wins are frequently sought after as nuggets of opportunity. But the issue you’ve spent time and brainpower on deserves better than just some quick wins. It needs some win quicklies (WQ).
A WQ is an idea that can be executed rapidly to act as a proof point for something much bigger, as opposed to a quick-win, which is simply a no-regrets action to be done. WQs are your diamonds, as they minimise implementation risk for the delivery team while simultaneously helping you see the outcomes of your idea sooner. You’d likely prefer several WQs implemented instead of one big, slower-moving project.
When determining which of your ideas will be your best, consider how easily the idea can be delivered and how well it will prove something. Ideas which are easier to deliver, and which have the potential to swiftly prove something, are the ones you want to promote. Those that are harder to do and have low potential as proof points don’t qualify as WQs.
Some of the novel and interesting ideas you’ve created may be too large or complex to use – but you can deconstruct them into smaller elements where one element might have the potential to be a WQ? If an implemented WQ doesn’t deliver then the bigger idea probably wouldn’t have been successful anyway. However, if the WQ works you’ve still got the bigger idea to propose.
Ideas which are easier to deliver, and which have the potential to swiftly prove something, are the ones you want to promote
2. Test drive your ideas
When buying a used car, you need to drive it on the road to see if there are any faults with it – and to ensure you’re comfortable with how it performs. It’s the same with your ideas too – you need to take your WQs for a test drive with people you know.
The ideas you’ve come up with are from your own personal point of view – but what if there’s something you’ve missed? Something happening in the organisation that you’re unaware of? Or, what if you’re wrong in some aspect of your thinking? You need other people’s perspectives to help you re-shape your own thinking.
Their experience and knowledge of your organisation can help you build your ideas into more-robust concepts. If you’ve missed a key consideration, better you hear it from a peer early on rather than from the final stakeholder you’re pitching the idea to later.
Allowing your ideas to be shaped by others shows maturity in your own thinking. Challenges to their potential helps strengthen your ideas – they’re not an attack on your thinking.
3. Pitch your ideas
When presenting your final concepts to a stakeholder, establish the meeting as a co-creation session rather than you present a business case you want them to invest in. You can even pre-position the meeting by asking them if they are open to hearing some radical, but practical, thinking on the issue you’re relating to. It’s unlikely you’ll be rejected with this approach.
Make ambiguity your friend. Present your idea as an incomplete concept to them, as you acknowledge that there will be some relevant organisational issues, they will know that you won’t. This opens the door for their input and for them to add value to your thinking. If they suggest difficulties in achieving your idea, then ask for their recommendations on how to overcome those problems.
If the opportunity arises, drop in some other intriguing teaser ideas to see what attracts their attention. This helps show how you considered alternate approaches to the issue too. Explain that you’ve test driven your ideas with others as validation of your thinking – this also demonstrates you as a team player and not a solitary thinker.
Considering the stakeholder meeting as a co-creation session. Leave elements of your thinking open to change and interpretation to suit their needs that helps them shape the opportunity for when they have to sell your concept to their stakeholders, too.
4. Going backwards to move forward
If your stakeholder identifies issues that your thinking may face, you must gain clarity on what they want you to include or re-consider. Then ask for a few days to think through their suggestions before coming back to them with ways to overcome any hurdles. You can even use this time to add additional value to your concepts, such as ways to deliver it vividly. Or how to get rapid uptake of your idea and ways to gain greater value from it.
Adapting your thinking to overcome their hurdles is your route to success. You cannot know or control all the unknown senior management elements – but ultimately, it’s still your ideas being discussed and implemented.
Applying this for wide usage
The potential for better thinking among employees to address work issues is significant. However, the people who know what the core issues are, and who have the ideas to help address them, may not understand that an idea isn’t necessarily a ready-to-implement solution. Adopting this four-step process helps any idea rise to the management level, which can make the implementation decision.
And conversely, it allows for the originator of the idea to gain recognition and gain a reputation for being a determined, pragmatic thinker. And if there’s one thing ‘ideas people’ love – it’s being acknowledged as an ‘ideas person’.
Chris Thomason is founder of Ingenious Growth