Ideas Come Easy, but Can You Really Pull It Off?

No value is created when an idea can’t be pulled off.

Take a time out some time and listen to what is said around you. It could be in a meeting at work, in a bistro having coffee with a friend or at a networking event with colleagues.

People talk about their intentions most of the time; what ideas they have to improve their, or their organization’s, circumstances.

— “I want to be a marketing executive.”
— “I want to lose 30 pounds.”
— “We will create a product that solves the distracted driving problem in our roads.”
— “I want to travel the world.”
— “I will invent a product that will change the world.”
— “Our goal is to be #1 in the market for international pharmaceuticals.”

Ideas come easy

Ideas come easy; declaring what is intended (to make you happy, enhance your performance, build customer loyalty and achieve a rewarding career) is a straightforward task.

The far more difficult thing is to achieve what is intended (to BE happy, increase your performance by 50% and to be appointed to that VP position).

But despite the chasm between the idea and delivering the successful result,  the focus today is all about ideas; they are given the priority to the point that an entire discipline has been established to aid people in coming up with tools to aid in the “ideation” process. Various tools such as brainstorming, storyboarding and mind mapping are promulgated in a logic framework to generate outside-the-box thinking.


Can you pull it off?

The ability to pull it off is the counter balance to the intellectual worth of the idea — it is the offset to an awesome notion that can’t be implemented.

An amazing idea that (on paper) has the potential to “change the world” in some way but can’t be pulled off is an idea with ZERO worth (other than the discovery that the great idea has no practical application). Theoretical possibilities sponsored by the intellect contribute nothing of value until they are pulled off.

“Affordable housing” in Vancouver is a notion that most everyone can subscribe to, but until the idea is quickly followed up with a plan that is successfully implemented , it is vapourware. And that is exactly what is happening in every major city in the world: the affordable housing aspiration is saluted, but little progress has been achieved.

So is achieving affordable housing a good idea? Yes and no. If you evaluate it in terms of whether it would deliver substantial societal benefits, it’s not only a good idea it’s an incredible one. But if you judge the idea on its practical merits, I would say it’s not only a bad idea, it’s a dismal failure. It’s no more than an altruistic notion of what a great thing it would be if it COULD be achieved. But until someone figures out how to pull it off it’s a pipe dream that every politician and social interest group applauds but goes no further.

We need to change the way we think about success and value; real success doesn’t come from ideas themselves but in actions that have produced demonstrated benefits. But in many circles it’s easier to utter rhetoric and be a student of it because it requires no commitment to DO anything.


The pull-it-off factor

We need to start thinking of worth and value of a idea as a function of whether you can pull the idea off or not. So, that amazing idea with a small “pull-it-off-factor” isn’t as amazing as the not-so-amazing (imperfect) idea that can be pulled off with real benefits streaming out sooner rather than later.

Pull-it-off should rule the decision on whether or not an idea is worthy of pursuit, not the inherent brilliance of the idea. Resources — time, money and energy — should be applied to ideas that have a path in front of them that leads to achievement, not the need to consume more resources as time goes on.

What can you do with a low pull-it-off idea?


Chuck it

Discard the idea and run with another one that has both significant paper benefits and one where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And incrementally improve the idea along the way as more practical insight is determined about how it will work and what can be done to make it better. You have to know when to cut your losses and pursue something else that creates value. Throwing money at an impossible task is a waste of resources and is just plain stupid.


Chunk it

Break the idea into discrete pieces and focus on one that CAN be accomplished and create value. Look for a chunk that is a small piece of the bigger puzzle you are trying to solve. And maybe, just maybe getting the small piece done will, inch by inch, lead you to your grand plan. A nano-inch worth of progress is far better than spinning your wheels on the big play.


Morph it

Change — squeeze, bend, twist — the original idea into something that be delivered. It may not possess all the attributes as the original idea, but may retain some characteristics that do create value and are directionally consistent with your ultimate end game.


Note to self: no value is created when an idea can’t be pulled off

Society pursues Innovation because of our quest for added meaning and value to our lives — more exciting ways to communicate, lower cost and easier transportation, environmentally safe resource development projects, higher quality entertainment and safer driving tools that protect lives.

But we have arrived at a point where we need things DONE to improve our collective lives; we don’t need a continuing rhetoric of what COULD (in some theoretical sense) be achieved.

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