The Power of Ideas

Dictionary definition of idea (Webster’s Collegiate): “a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations.”; “a visible representation of a conception”

Ideas drive humanity – and your business. Some ideas carry an immortal value and thus, driving power.

Value, mission, vision and strategy are the pillars upon which human endeavours rise and fall. At the heart of them all live ideas that gives them life and reason.

What would life be like if the ideas that gave birth to flying machines, radio sets, cars, wireless communication, the radar, laser technology, the CPU and micro sensors and so much more were not conceived in the minds of individuals? What are the ‘what next?’ revolutionary ideas that would shape tomorrow’s world? Could it be that one of them is brewing in your mind, here and now? And if it is, are you giving it the space it needs to develop and mature? Would you be ready to go through the necessary mental birth-pains as it travels through the birth canal of your mind?

A business – or any kind of human endeavour – without a clear idea at its core will be prone to never-ending identity crisis. It may make money in the short-term, but in a way that may not sustain.

An outstanding example of an idea driving a business to the top of its game is the IBM story. Until some 15 years ago, IBM was making and selling computers. One day someone there had an epiphany and realised that the future is in designing in a pro-active way solutions to complex problems in all sectors of living by the intelligent deployment of computing power. The idea that drives IBM today is immensely more powerful than the one that started it: From selling a machine they are selling solutions.

Apple, Nokia and mobile devices. The idea driving Apple is to deliver an immaculate user experience. An engineering culture at its onset, the idea that was driving Nokia in its years of prominence was to deliver an immaculate product. Purely technically as a telephone Nokia’s handhelds are known to be superior to the iPhone. But who is buying a mobile these days just for phoning? It is one idea against the other and the idea of delivering an exciting experience wins hands down.

Once a person or an organisation adopts an idea and lives by it, it roots itself deeply into people’s way of thinking, recruiting, planning and innovating. Once it takes root in a system, it can take years to change, even when confronted with crisis. Consider Nokia and the outdated Symbian operating system: They are still churning them out knowing that they have no future. Now that they are confronted with the danger of extinction, the cogwheels of change are slowly turning. They needed to change their CEO, fire and reshuffle many and transform in order to create the space for new ideas. It is first and foremost a culture-change process; a fundamental realignment of attitude and perception.

Consider Boeing’ Dreamliner and EADS’ Airbus 380, into which each of these fierce rivals are staking their future, no less. Each has been created around an idea. To change the idea either one would need to go through a radical reformation that at this stage may bankrupt the company.

Changing the idea that drives a business and making it work can take two to five years, depending on the industry. From a human development perspective it can take a person up to ten years to neutralise and replace an idea that has shaped their thinking and behaviour. There are, however, ways to vastly shorten the time it takes through a process of accelerated personal development.

Is the idea that drives your business exciting, different and powerful enough to ensure an expanding franchise? Does it complement the potential of the team or company in terms of available human resource, talent pool and collective intelligence? Does it make it easy for you and those you are leading to communicate the added value of your offerings?

If you do not have an exciting idea directing your endeavours, take a side-step and think it through. Not just because of what there is to lose but much more so because of what there is to win. We live in times of incredible new transcendent opportunities All you have to do is reach out to make new connections, to perceive the abundance of new possibilities and the new moods and emotions that they engender in people’s minds.

Experience is the measure of value.

With best wishes,
David Gommé
World Copyright 2011 © David Gommé

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