“That’s a great idea, you should take the initiative and make it a reality.”
How many times have we heard that line? And what typically happens next? Most of the time – nothing. Most great ideas stay dormant because we lack the courage, resources, time and/or money to take action. But even when we have those things, giving our ideas life is like giving birth to a child (or so my wife tells me): before the joy comes great pain and sacrifice. You must own the responsibility regardless of the circumstances because no one will ever understand your idea or the dynamics associated with it like you do.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. But too many people ignore the mental, physical and intellectual effort that come before, during, and after all the goals, strategies, and tactics for executing your idea and making it a reality.
To do these things you need the right mindset – an innovative mindset or what I call an innovation mentality.
The process of cultivating an idea into a reality is a never-ending cycle of innovation. Problem is, most of us have had very little experience with innovation in our careers. According to a study conducted by my organization, the workforce is not innovative enough because we are trained and wired only to execute on what we are told to do. As a result, we are most proficient at completing short-term, immediate tasks, and least proficient at multiplying the opportunities inherent in the initial task they were asked to complete. Which is why companies that are successful at multiplying opportunities like Tesla and Salesforce don’t just produce the most cutting edge products – they have created innovative workplaces that value seizing opportunities.
These companies are constantly concerned about their ability to remain competitive – in the workplace and the marketplace. Today’s fiercely competitive marketplace requires us all to either convert our own ideas into a reality. If you are not participating in either of these activities, then you should re-evaluate your purpose and find a way to evolve the workplace, set out on your own or join an organization that has an innovation mentality.
You must accept that embracing an entrepreneurial spirit is an essential strategy for cultivating growth and opportunity for yourself and your idea and/or the organization you lead and serve.
You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to be entrepreneurial: Entrepreneurship is no longer just a business term anymore; it’s a way of life. Not being involved in innovative activities is irresponsible – not just to yourself, but to those around you.
As you think about how you can begin to embrace this entrepreneurial spirit more actively, here are six things you must do in order to convert ideas into entrepreneurial reality either inside the company you work for or on your own:
1. Believe in Yourself
Any time you assume the responsibility to give something that had not existed before an opportunity to become a reality, you become accountable for your actions. But you can’t take those actions unless you believe in yourself – enough to handle the consequences of your decisions and to convince others to join you. Accountability requires believing in yourself enough to be 100% dedicated to getting the work done. This is the number one reason in my experience that people fail to take an idea to fruition: The unexpected challenges become more than they think they can handle and thus they no longer want to be accountable to it. They lose the belief in themselves to see things through.
2. Listen to Others
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, listen to everyone because you never know when you will hear a good idea. Advice from stakeholders is usually more meaningful, but not necessarily right. Few people will have enough context to fully understand what you’re trying to do. Synthesize their comments so they make sense to you, understand the thinking behind any negative comments, and then make the decision on your own.
3. Embrace Risk
Relationships are essential when bringing an idea to reality but risk is your best friend. If you can accept this fact, you will approach the process with a lens that keeps your dreams and ambitions in perspective and on track. When things don’t go as planned along the way, stay focused on the mission at hand and do not allow disruption to set you backward. Working hard without accepting risk is spinning your wheels. You will never venture outside your comfort zone and seize new opportunities for growth.
4. Remember: Patience is a Virtue
You will hear people tell you, “Don’t suffer from analysis paralysis!” or “He who hesitates is lost!” But compromise and collaboration must also be choices, not a sacrifice under the guise of momentum. Take the time to appreciate the journey if just for a moment. Those who don’t – who are too anxious to get their desired results – inevitably start to make bad decisions as they go. If you take the time to think about, even celebrate, small victories, you will also be able to accept and even appreciate the inevitable unexpected outcomes and obstacles – and the doubters who stand in your way – and respect the process for overcoming them.
5. Learn to Explain and Sell Your Vision to More than Just Yourself
Converting your idea to a reality requires you to help others understand your vision – until then it’s all in your head. Selling vision is much like selling change: You must clearly define your value proposition for more than just you but how it will lead to opportunities and growth for others who you want to invest and partner with you in the company. The more direct, simple, and other-directed you are about what you are trying to accomplish will not only lead to engagement but also trust and increase your probability of buy-in for your idea.
6. Know Your ABCDs: Always Be Connecting Dots
Spotting paths of connectivity along your idea journey is the difference between your core idea being just a hobby or a one-off product and it maturing into something bigger, like a business. I launched a food business in 1997 called Luna Rossa. I started with a product line of specialty vegetables anchored by my flagship product of marinated artichoke hearts. We took our core idea to the retail market by establishing a higher-quality line of branded products inside warehouse retailer Costco. Once we successfully accomplished that we connected our core idea to line extensions that included pasta sauces, salad dressings and more. We eventually sold products to over 6,000 retail stores throughout North America, creating new brands and entering into licensing arrangements.
All because we always connected those dots to new opportunities!
You can too! Do these six things and you not only will be on your way to making your idea a reality but you will have developed the foundation of an innovation mentality. You are now on your way to embracing a new type of thinking to evolve your idea to stay ahead of the rapid changes in the workplace and marketplace, create distinct competitive advantages and drive growth.