Monday, June 25, 2012

A Good Idea

Spend enough time working with people who are talented, creative and confident, and you'll come to the realization that having a "good idea" doesn't mean a whole lot. Good ideas are so plentiful that being "good" doesn't qualify an idea for consideration let alone implementation. Unless you have infinite time and budget, you have to go with the "best" ideas only.

Deciding what idea merits "best" is another challenge. In addition to the benefits derived from an idea, you have consider time, cost, distraction from other work, implication to brand, your desire to pursue it, your ability to implement it, and so on.  Many great ideas simply aren't a match for you or your team. Many ideas would be too great a distraction from other things you want to do.

Stop List
Once you select the best idea or ideas, implementation can be another challenge. Perhaps the most challenging part is what we used to call the "stop-list".  Creative, talented and confident people tend to have full schedules. Implementing something new requires you to stop something old, oftentimes many things old.

Most people dread creating stop-lists; instead, they try to borrow a bit of time here and a bit of time there.  It's common practice and it works, initially. However, before you know it, the overhead of managing many simultaneous assignments starts to take more time than any one of the assignments. Your efforts within any one task become so diluted as to be ineffective. You allocate more and more time to shifting from one task to the next, remembering where you were when you last worked on it, rebuilding your context and getting started. We used to say, "It's not the engine; it's the transmission."

Even people who show great discipline in filtering all but the very best ideas struggle with stop-lists. The more talented, creative and confident, the longer they can go without it appearing to negatively affect the quality of their work. However, the effects are there and they go negative pretty early.

The reason I say "pretty early" is that there can be positive benefit to having diverse tasks, specially when they have little overlap. If you're working on a big creative project, washing dishes or mowing the lawn can provide renewal and insight.  If you're training for a marathon, then playing a musical instrument can give you  a new angle on how your body works.  Diversity helps you avoid repetitive-stress injuries (physical, mental and emotional). When managed well, the breadth of the experience increases the depth of experience. However, when not diversity becomes dabbling, and breadth replaces depth.

Good Idea Bin
There are benefits to having no stop-list. You become good at games like Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. You become interesting at parties (well, for at least the first five minutes of a conversation). You never become too attached to anything. You never have to choose between things you like. You never have to deal with the choices that come with great success. You can easily find like-minded friends.

The real question isn't, "Should you write a stop-list or not?"

The question is, "What do you want?"

If you want to do great things or to do things great, and if you're talented, creative and confident, you're gonna need a stop-list (no ifs, ands, or buts). Sure, there are people who have good ideas so infrequently that they want to patent everyone of them, but you're not one those people. You've got more good ideas than you'll ever be able to implement. Shoot, you've got more GREAT ideas than you'll ever be able to implement.

So, what are you BEST ideas? What percentage of your time do you allocate to them? Would you like to make them happen? What are you going to stop?

Happy Monday,

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