29 September 2010


by Derry S. Long

I’ve had a million good ideas. Ideas about what should change in the organizations I’ve worked in; on how to improve productivity, profitability, and enjoyability; ideas about personal growth. I’ve read and listened to a lot of good ideas other people have had. You’ve had good ideas, hundreds of them.

Yet most of these ideas fail to find a place in our organizations and lives. Failing to take root, they move from exciting possibilities, to something I want to get to, to eventually something that was, a blip on the radar screen that has disappeared with no evidence that it even existed. Perhaps an idea was written down, or even filed, yet is virtually lost, like a blade of grass in a lawn, seen but not noticed as we walk by for the too numerous to mention time. And accompanying this is oft times guilt at letting some of our most exciting notions get treated so shabbily. But there is tomorrow and some more ideas.

Why don’t my ideas and yours become reality? Why do they so often get lost, postponed, trumped, or crowded out?

Consider the possibility that an idea, by itself, an intention, a plan, a goal, does not have enough critical mass to invade my present reality. My reality of values, behaviors, habits, and paradigms have weight, substance. If I want a new idea to find a home in my life, I must give it enough critical mass, enough weight and velocity, to break through and shift what is already present. Just thinking, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds before summer,” or, “I’m going to read something inspiring everyday,” doesn’t carry enough critical mass. Critical mass is the amount material needed for a specific result or new action to occur and be sustained. In nuclear physics it is the amount of fissile material needed for a sustained chain reaction at a constant level. Without this critical mass, our ideas are like a space shuttle, unable to re-enter earth’s atmosphere because its’ trajectory was wrong and so, like the shuttle, my ideas will not penetrate the density of my life, but rather, bounce along outside of it until lost into a chasm.

The problem with a new idea is that it is isolated and has nowhere to land because something else is sitting on the runway. For a new idea to gain a place it must have enough weight and velocity to move what is in its’ place. To gain a place requires action. Consider three possibilities for adding critical mass to your ideas.

First, ADD A RELATIONSHIP that can give your idea authority or priority in your life. If we want something different we often must bring someone different in. The people presently in my life usually support what is presently in my life.

Giving a person who represents, like a lawyer, your idea, and giving them authority to be invasive in support of your idea gives weight. It is the long distance runner who never trains alone, the person attending the AA meeting, Seabiscuit, the racehorse, needing to race another horse to be at top speed. Ideas fail foremost for lack of relationship, not lack

of information. The first purpose of this relationship is to represent, as an advocate, your new idea. The second is to insure that the next action occurs.

Second, ADJUST YOUR DAILY ROUTINE to give space to your idea. Physically declare it to associates, put it in your Outlook, write it down on a post-it note and put it on your computer screen, make it a date with someone else. Next to relationship comes daily routine, repetition. Often it means removing something from your daily routine. Create a path of execution that you can follow right through your Day-timer. Be loyal to your idea. Resist adultery, chasing after an old, established idea, or drooling over a new idea spotted across a crowded room. Your idea deserves respect.

Third, CONNECT YOUR IDEA TO YOUR BIG DREAM. List the ways your idea serves your Big Dream. This is an effort to create an internal harmony with your idea. Your internal dials are often set to what already is in your reality. You have to reset them, like changing a clock to daylight saving time. Consider what motivates you, what your strengths are, and find connecting points between your idea and your dreams, strengths, and motivations. This connecting, like an electric switch that connects electricity to the light bulb, completing a circuit, allows you to slowly build an internal consistency between your idea and your personal DNA.

Two final hints. First, you and I are looking for ways to be hospitable to our ideas, giving them a place at the dinner table, making them welcome in our lives. But only so many ideas can sit around the table at a time. Too many invitations will result in hostess meltdown like lack of food or room. Too many ideas at once creates unmanageable overload. Someone’s hopes are built up only to be dashed, someone’s feeling are hurt, someone goes unnoticed. Develop a way to store up “invitations” for the future. And second, perhaps the biggest danger to ideas is that we think about them rather than acting on their behalf. Only action realizes potential. An idea without action is like a menu without a chef, lots of promise, but no nutrition.

So, do you have an idea? Then act, be loyal to it, find someone to ride shotgun with you to see it come to life.

©Intelligent Growth, Inc 2007

This article could be for anyone really, anyone with an idea. Derry is a friend of ours and a GREAT thinker. He always comes up with ideas that stretch my thinking. This particular article I have read several times, but this time it was in terms of my business and it is rocking my socks off. So this one is for you fellow business associates.