You’re sitting at home one day watching the TV when, suddenly, eureka! You come up with a fantastic idea – one that could help your company save millions. The next day you take it to your bosses, who agree that it’s a superb idea. A project team is set up to turn it into reality.
Yet, over the next few weeks, progress seems to go nowhere, no one can work out how to make the idea happen. So gradually everybody’s enthusiasm for the project dwindles, and within a month or so, it’s scrapped altogether, and the idea lost.
This is a very common occurrence – many awesome ideas get lost at the execution stage.
Every task can be broken down into action steps, references and backburner items.
All your projects, no matter what they are, can be broken down into three main categories.
First come the action steps, the specific tasks that must be done in order to realize the project. For your vital sales presentation, the action steps might be: “Create an outline for the presentation,” or “Ask my boss which product benefits I should focus on.”
Next come references. These are pieces of related information that could prove useful for your project. For that important pitch, the references could be things like sales forecasts for your product, analysis of your market competitors or even the feedback you’ve received from previous pitches.
Finally, you have backburner items, project-related ideas or action steps that aren’t immediately relevant but may become so in the future. Reworking and beautifying the slides of your presentation, for example, is a backburner item.
It’s important to separate the aspects of your project into these categories, as failure to do so will leave you stressed and distracted. If you don’t distill the vital from the trivial, then your mind will simply be too crammed full of thoughts to concentrate effectively.
Whether personal or professional, every project revolves around ideas you want to push into action.
Think in terms of action and your projects will always be moving forward.
Often, ideas fail because the projects they represent aren’t geared toward action. One reason for this is that much of our work consists of rituals, such as meetings or brainstorming sessions. These are things that we do out of habit, but which don’t necessarily lead to results.
It’s important to capture the action steps, because they create momentum. Even the smallest action steps will make progress much easier, as you’ll be less likely to run into situations where you don’t know what to do next.
Action steps are to be revered and treated as sacred in any project.
Time spent reacting is time spent losing.
Unfortunately, most of our time is spent simply reacting to the constant deluge of information and requests from others.
You need an organized approach toward projects in order to get things done efficiently, and a reactionary work flow directly impedes this process of organization.
Most projects don’t fail because of a bad idea, but because of bad execution.
However great an idea might be, it’s always in danger of abandonment. Ideas provide us with high energy and commitment – but it simply doesn’t last. Once we realize the amount of work required to turn an idea into reality, we easily become demotivated and disinterested.
This point is called the project plateau, the time during which we abandon our idea in favor of a fresh, new, exciting one.
Thankfully, there are methods we can use to ensure that we don’t succumb to project plateau by using our energy more efficiently.
For starters, we can strive to make the most from our initial energy after generating a good idea.
Also, you can adopt working routines that are highly energy efficient and thus essential to overcoming the project plateau phase.
Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. - Thomas Edison
Partnerships between different types of people help compensate for your personal shortcomings.
There are good reasons why people with different personalities can become extraordinarily successful when they put their minds together, and this is no less true in the creative industry.
When it comes to project realization, there are three distinct types of people:
Dreamers are highly creative, and are constantly coming up with new and sometimes wacky ideas. Their amazing innovation comes with a huge downside, however. They always want to start something new and exciting, so have difficulty seeing things through to the end.
Doers are pragmatists who focus on feasibility and execution. They’re the ones who make sure ideas make it all the way from conception to completion. They bring a healthy skepticism to their projects and always emphasize what is necessary to finish them.
Incrementalists can switch between both roles, being creative when it suits them, but also focusing on execution when they need to. However, this often results in them starting more projects than they can finish, which prevents them from achieving extraordinary successes.
As you can see, these types can all have trouble working solo. However, by partnering with their complements or with an incrementalist, they can be very successful.
All three types of people were represented within the leadership team at Apple.
Chief Designer Jonathan Ive is a dreamer who kept the great designs coming in. Steve Jobs was an incrementalist, not only providing Apple with visionary ideas, but also ensuring that they became reality. Finally, it was Chief Operations Officer Tim Cook, the doer, who ensured that the products were turned into a profitable business.
The perfect mix of all three led to one of the most innovative companies of all time.
If you want your idea to fail, be sure to keep it a secret.
When you have great ideas that seem to have huge potential, do you hug them to you or share them freely? Often, we’re too afraid that someone might steal our breakthroughs, so don’t share them with anyone outside our intimate circle.
However, this is totally backward! As you’ve seen, people have a hard time making their own great idea a reality, much less other people’s.
Moreover, discussing ideas with others provides us with the important feedback we need to help us proceed and succeed with our ideas.
For example, you can often tell how promising your idea is by how many people are willing to join in, which of course you can only measure by openly sharing your idea.
Sharing also allows for feedback in the form of criticism. By presenting your ideas to people who have different points of view, you have the opportunity to see problems or opportunities that you couldn’t otherwise find on your own.
In addition, sharing our ideas puts pressure on us to complete them ourselves. When we tell people about our great ideas, they will often follow up with us to see how things are coming along, and we thus become accountable for progress.