Innovation vs Distraction: Got a System?

Last night, I attended an IdeaSlam at the Cary Innovation Center. Several different entrepreneurs–some with companies already and others with only ideas so far–each gave their two to three minute spiel before receiving feedback from the crowd and EntreDot staff. The variety of thoughts was impressive. So, too, was the passionate advocacy of what the presenters felt inspired to do. I wondered, though, what happens when passion wanes due to setbacks…

It’s not enough to have a good (or even great) initial idea…the best predictor of success is how the idea is nurtured, problems solved, and opportunities explored.  In order to become successful, the entrepreneur must continue to be curious. Reading extensively, attending events where nuggets of wisdom can be received, and simply taking time to think are all ways to keep the idea alive.

While a commitment to pursue a free flow of learned information is admirable, what is most desirable is learning how to discern between them and hone in on the best ones. Best practice is to develop a process to vet new ideas (not a totally new business idea mind you, but rather a “how to,” “when to,” why to” pursue your original one. With a process in place, distinctions can be made between new opportunities and new tactics or ways of doing what you do. A value judgment must be placed on whether giving the new thought earnest heed and an investment of time and effort will move the organization closer to accomplishing its mission or become a diversion.

In addition to evaluating new thoughts on the diversion–>mission scale, it can be helpful to analyze them based on internal and external impact. Does pursuit of the thought give the company a chance to accentuate something it’s good at? Or, overcome something at which it is weak? Does the thought have the potential to help the company thwart a market move by a competitor, or pioneer a new “blue ocean?” 

Thirdly, what other ideas have to be set aside to pursue the new one(s)? Resources are in high demand in a start-up company. If talent and time and “treasure” are invested in something new, what might suffer by comparison? Perhaps your “back of the napkin” cost vs. benefit analysis indicates that the new thought is worthy. Then what?

The new thought must “grow legs!” In order for it to have its intended effect, planning must occur. Figuring out what steps need to be pursued includes breaking a big idea down into smaller ones and devising a custom approach for each one. Within approaches, strategies and tactics, with actionable due dates, become the blueprint to build a better mousetrap.

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