Four tips for implementing creative ideas

I regularly meet people who tell me that creativity is not an issue in their organisation. As a matter of fact, they have an abundance of great ideas. Their main concern: how to implement all these ideas?

Ideas can be obtained everywhere and free of charge. Share your challenge with the first person you meet, and you will immediately be overloaded with suggestions on how to solve your problem. Whether you share your issue with the CEO, the secretary of your department or a random colleague next to the coffee machine. People love to give you their solutions.

Having no ideas is rarely the problem within organisations. Any employee can give you some suggestions. However, these ideas are usually not very creative. The solutions you get from different people are likely to all be roughly the same. Ideas that you yourself had been thinking about for a long time. Ideas that are fine, yet not quite what you are looking for. Otherwise, you would already have implemented them. These ‘top off the head’ ideas are often incomplete, time-consuming, conventional or simply too expensive.

Generating ideas is easy. Coming up with novel ideas is already a lot harder. Nevertheless, everyone can come up with innovative ideas using creative thinking techniques. Anyone with the right mindset can think outside the box. However, there is more to it than that. A creative idea is only the beginning. Because of their novel origin, creative ideas are often hard (or impossible) to implement immediately. With most ideas, you need some further thinking to get to something feasible.

Implementing creative ideas is hard work. There is no silver bullet for a quick and painless procedure. However, there are a few things you can keep in mind the next time you’re having trouble executing a creative idea.

1. Search for needs instead of ideas
Make sure that the problem you’re addressing is based on a real need, felt by (a large portion of) your target audience. It’s easy to fall in love with a creative idea, however, if you want to implement ideas successfully you will need to validate that your problem is worth solving. If you’re satisfying a real (customer) need you increase your chances of a flawless execution.

2. Create idea-ownership
You will have to work together to implement ideas. Apart from having a problem-owner (the one who cares about the problem very much) you also need a solution-owner (the person you need to implement your solution). That’s why it’s important to create ambassadors for your idea as quickly as possible. Share your ideas, collaborate with stakeholders and involve as many people as you can. Try to incorporate the interests of other people into your idea in order to create a firm support base.

3. Make the results of your idea tangible
What does your solution deliver? What do you want to achieve with your project? Apart from the fact that it’s important for yourself to have a clear goal, it also helps to create ambassadors for it. Do not underestimate the importance of selling your idea. The more original your idea is, the greater the chance that you will encounter resistance. Make it as tangible as possible. Show others what you see in the idea.

Adjust your pitch to your audience. A business case with an attractive prospect is perfect for the CFO. For colleagues who have to adjust their behaviour because of your idea, you may want to show them which unpleasant tasks they will no longer have to do because of your ideas. And for your clients who have little imagination, it can help to develop a visualisation or an attractive prototype.

4. Break the project down into small actions
One of the simplest things you can do to become more successful at executing ideas is breaking your project into tiny action steps. The more specific these actions are, the better. On most to-do lists you will find abstract actions such as; ‘research project x’. Although you understand what needs to be done, these bullets are not efficient since they are too large to execute. They still need to be converted into real actions. Besides, they often can’t be crossed out after your first action, which is demotivating. Another mistake that is often made, is a lack of accountability. The individual actions have no name attached to them. They are just thrown into the group, in the hope that someone will do it. And as we all know, that’s not how things work.

Implementing creative ideas is not as hard as it seems. Create concrete actions steps, prioritise these actions, and make someone responsible for each action. (And hold them accountable for it.)

If you want to become a more productive innovator, I advise you to read the books ‘Getting Things Done‘, ‘Scrum‘ and ‘Making Ideas Happen‘. It’s also worth diving into digital productivity & collaboration tools such as Trello, Todoist and Evernote.

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