Ideas are hard to get a handle on. They have no physical properties, no one knows where they come from, they’re invisible to the naked eye, and they don’t actually do anything themselves. In spite of all this, they are the essence of what it means to be human. They are the engine that runs the brains that separate us from the animals.
What’s more, every single invention that propelled our civilization to the heights it has achieved started with one idea in one person’s head. The printing press, the light bulb, the telephone, the internal combustion engine, the Internet: each began as an inkling that there was a better, different way to do something, inklings that begat the hard work that led, eventually, to a changed world.
Now think about your business. How much time do you and your employees spend brainstorming new ideas?
Odds are, not enough. And while someone in your employ might not come up with the next light bulb or printing press, there’s a decent chance an employee could discover a better way for your firm to do business. Similarly, an idea might not inspire you to build the second coming of Apple or Microsoft, but eliminating inefficiencies in the way you do business can make your company leaner, more profitable, and better prepared to take advantage of any friendly market conditions that might arise.
Call it brainstorming, call it ideation, but the larger point is this: it does you and your business a lot of good to set aside time every once in a while for idea-generation. However that works best for you, whether it means everyone sits in a dark room thinking or the crew walks down the street for a communal lunch, let people’s minds wander every once in a while and you might be amazed at what results.
In particular, ask your employees to think about the following (and remember to do so yourself, too!):
- What works? What doesn’t? What’s the difference?
- If a regular initiative consistently comes up short, is there a better method of approach?
- Who’s in charge of what in your organization, and why?
- What’s the next step?
Healthy businesses run on ideas and follow-through. You might have the hardest working gang in your field (we certainly do!), but without ideas to take full advantage of that energy, you’re selling your business short.