Weed your idea garden
By Scott Francis
Everyone loves innovation and wants to come up with new ideas. Fresh ideas are the lifeblood of innovation and new products. So why would you want to kill a new thought? Innovative cultures are very difficult to develop and more difficult to sustain so why would you want to squash an idea before it really has a chance to develop and grow? Isn’t marketing supposed to be the “Idea Machine”?
Ideas are great. Every new product that ever succeeded was once simply an idea. Ideas feed off of other ideas and help build into bigger better ideas. A culture that fosters fresh new ideas has a much better chance of success than an environment that is controlling, ridged and squashes every new thought before it has a chance to develop.
The problem with too many ideas is that they crowd out the good ones. Not having a good “kill discipline” in your company or organization allows weak or off-strategy ideas to consume too much time and valuable resources. Projects that should never see the light of day are kept on life support too long making it harder for the good ideas to get the resources they need. These might be someone’s “pet project” or an idea that seemed like a good idea at the time but no longer is due to changes in technology, laws or competition.
When trying to sort out ideas and the resources you will allocate to them think of a garden. If you don’t weed the garden the healthy plants will get crowed out by the weeds and won’t produce nearly as much fruit or vegetables. Weeding the garden increases the chances that the healthy plants will be able to grow and mature. When the garden is weeded regularly the mature plants can grow much faster with the same amount of water and fertilizer.
Allowing too many ideas to live too long also means your organization might not know which ones are really important. If all ideas are treated equally it is hard to maintain focus on your objective. Return to the garden and visualize a garden hose. If you just let the water run out the end you get a pretty steady flow but the water doesn’t go very far. If you put your thumb on the end of that hose you can concentrate the flow of the water and it will go a lot further faster. The same thing is true of ideas. If you really nurture the ideas that are on strategy and stop wasting time on the ones that are not, you will be able to go a lot farther, faster.
The best new product marketers and business developers are in fact dreamers. They excel in seeing solutions before others do. They are able to apply both art and science by using market data and intuition. The best business developers can recognize emerging consumer trends and patterns and know what their organization is capable of delivering. They don’t waste time on good ideas that can’t be executed and have the courage to quickly kill the ideas have little chance of bearing fruit or won’t produce as much as healthy on strategy ideas.
Finding the right level of innovation and ideas is the job of the Chief Marketing Officer or CEO. Some companies focus on just one major project at a time while others have dozens of new ventures running at once. The number of new initiatives that can be managed at one time really depends on the internal resources available and the external resources and expertise that the company can afford to bring in on a project basis
Don’t kill all your ideas. Keep and maintain a culture that fosters new ideas and innovation but also the ability to share what is on strategy and can be executed and what cannot. You don’t want to shut off the innovation funnel. You may have to explain that an idea is god but there simply are not the resources to get the project done at the current time and that there are other bigger ideas that the organization will focus on first.
There is danger in putting all of your eggs in one basket. A dependence on one idea can make an organization feel that they have to make the idea work no matter what. There are also problems with having too many “weeds in the garden.” The optimal level of new ideas and projects depends on the resources available and the corporate strategy. By fostering ideas that are consistent with the companies or organizations strategy and having the discipline to kill those ideas that are not, you will develop a sharper organizational focus. The focus will help your good ideas grow faster and become profitable more quickly.
About the author: Scott Francis is the author of the book “Marketing is About making Money” and president of Topline Development LLC, a business consulting company that helps start-ups and larger growing companies identify and solve major strategic issues. To learn more about Topline Development LLC, contact Scott at Scott@ToplineDevelopment.com