I am an idea man.
I’ve always taken pride in my creative ideas. In high school I started a turkey-themed fundraiser called “Feathers for Food.” In college I started a reading program for kids called “Reading Partner Mentors” (RPM). I’m even proud of my ideas that didn’t work and those that were little more successful. I’ve never done drugs; I don’t need to….new ideas do it for me. I think God made me this way.
Thankfully, I have a job where I get to hatch and nurture new ideas. And I have a boss that encourages me to do so and an innovative company culture that would make Steve Jobs jealous.
But last week a good friend I work with said something that sat on my chest like a gorilla in a baby pool…
“You haven’t had many big ideas lately.”
Knife, meet back.
Mountain of dynamite, meet mountain of pride.
7 words that went kamikaze on my very identity. As a Myers-Briggs INFP, I don’t process things cerebrally as much as I feel them guturally. And I felt that.
After I had a little time to lick my wounds, I realized that he was kind of right. In the last 12 months, I haven’t thought of a ton of new, innovative ideas (compared to previous years). But I also realized that I’ve gotten to come alongside some other people with really good ideas and help execute them:
- Kevin, our COO had the idea to pursue Space Camp as a partner.
- Chris, our CEO had the idea to create an customized website for every school we serve.
- Robert, our Creative Project Leader, wrote an unbelievable kids’ book.
Each of these people allowed me to step into their idea and help make it become a reality. I got to help them execute their idea.
And this truly is a better way to hash out new ideas. While great ideas may be sparked in the mind of an individual, it takes a team to refine it, develop it, execute it, and launch it. The spark of an idea is worthless without the fuel of follow up and follow through.
As an ideator, I’m finally coming to value execution as highly as ideation.
In every industry, great ideas are as common as dirt. Unfortunately, most people lack the discipline and strategy to execute them well. Our society celebrates and applauds innovators. Not quite so much glam for the gritty executors who add the bite to the bark though.
I’ve had a couple good ideas in the past year, but I’m more proud that I’ve been able to invest in the great ideas of others.
I’ve learned in the past year that if all I ever do is invest in my own ideas, I’m a narcissist. If I believe that time is the most valuable asset I have–which I do–and I’m shoveling heaps of it only on my thing, then I’ve really got to question my motives. Am I building the organization, or am I just building my own creative capital?
So for all the other idea people out there who work in teams:
Learn to collaborate on someone else’s idea. Learn to develop someone else’s creation. Learn to rally the troops in your organization behind someone else’s innovation. Sure, they get all the credit, but that’s not the point.
And yeah I know we all have different talents, but I become skeptical when the only direction you seem to be able to point those talents is towards yourself.
In my own life I’m looking for the balance of ideas vs. execution. It’s definitely more art than science.
I got to spend a day with Seth Godin last week here in Atlanta. Heard him speak three times–once at a private lunch, once for an interview, and once on stage in front of 13,000 people. He’s arguably the greatest marketing mind of our generation, and no less than ten times I heard him promote…
Someone else’s idea.
It’s okay to work on your own projects, but every now and then, come up for air, look around, and find someone else’s idea to invest in.