I’m always talking about the value of having big, bold ideas, and yet just as critical is knowing how to get a big, bold idea off the ground. That can be tricky.
At this stage of the game, I’m a pretty good idea launcher, but it’s definitely been an acquired skill. In my twenties and thirties, I often procrastinated, stewed, second-guessed myself or overly polished a concept, sometimes so much so that I totally missed the moment of opportunity.
When I was a young writer at Glamour magazine, for instance, I decided on my own to research why there were wide swings in how readers rated key sections of the magazines from one issue to the next, a fact that mystified the top editors. I found a surprising explanation and began to write up a report on it. In hindsight I know this report would have scored major points for me, but for months I kept reworking it. I ended up landing a new job at another magazine before I had a chance to hand the darn thing in. (My one consolation: The insight I gained has served me for the rest of my career.)
But in time, thank God, I got better, in part from interviewing a few time-management experts but also from watching major idea launchers in action. Here are some of the strategies I’d recommend.
Play Shark Tank With Your Concept. You’ve seen the show, right? Would-be millionaires pitch their ideas to a team of experts who have the ability to fund them. Ask yourself what reception your idea would receive from a panel of experts? What grade would someone award it?
Just because your boss green-lit your concept doesn’t mean it’s really good. Ultimately you don’t want to try to run with an idea that lacks legs. It will be tough to keep summoning your energy, and in the end you won’t win much. Ask yourself if your concept really has the potential to add value (as in money or prestige) to your company (whether it’s your own or the place where you’re working.) Does it help solve a real, specific need? If not, go back to the drawing board. Playing Shark Tank could also help you see a flaw you can fix before you go forward.