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Why Your Ideas Don’t Matter

Yes, you read that right. Your ideas don’t matter. Not what you expected? Keep reading and I’ll explain.

Small business owners across the country are always looking to achieve the ‘American Dream.’ Armed with a healthy dose of the entrepreneurial spirit, many success seekers want to drop the ‘small’ connotation and grow their business into an industry leader. If only they could come up with the next big idea to propel them to the top, and grab the ultimate success.

That notion is flawed. Your ideas don’t matter.

That next great idea you’re waiting on? Someone has already come along and thought of it. It’s already been done and put into motion. And it works exactly the way you thought it would. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to discourage you. Don’t EVER stop trying to achieve success. Rags-to-riches stories still happen, and it can happen to you.

But there’s a better way to look at success. I challenge the thought that an ‘original idea’ is the only entryway to accomplishment. Victory doesn’t have to consist of new, unchallenged beliefs. Sometimes old thoughts and strategies are just as effective. To feel actual achievement, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – it could be as simple as taking antiquated knowledge, turning it on its head and making it better.

Look at Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers. Jobs didn’t create the .mp3 player, or the cell phone. He didn’t need to invent it. He, and his team, took those ideas and created a product better than anyone else on the market could. Apple focused on the user experience, not the price of a product. Sure, it led to an expensive iPhone or iPod, but everyone HAD to have it. No one remembers the company that came out with the first .mp3 player or cell phone. People remember the companies that make the BEST .mp3 players and cell phones. Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, didn’t conceive clothing stores or supermarket chains. He opened a small grocery store, and through innovation, this American entrepreneur transformed it into a retail giant. He improved what was already there through originality and innovation.

David Burkus, an Assistant Professor of Management at Oral Roberts University, wrote a profound article in the Harvard Business Review last year. In it, he addresses when organizations and businesses try to increase their innovation efforts, they usually assume they need to come up with more ideas. While trying to turn new ideas into practical products or services, he says innovation, “isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas are already there.” He writes that, “it’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.”

That’s why I think it’s crucial for businesses, large and small, to have good management. As the Technology Director at Armstrong Steel, I manage several elements of our Creative Suite, a sort of ‘think-tank’ at our business. It’s really an open atmosphere which keeps our creative juices flowing. Our executive management sits in on our meetings and leads by example, and from them, I’ve been able to glean some interesting management techniques, myself. While new ideas are encouraged in our board room, I always go back to my earlier notion. Some are new ideas to us, but I recognize they aren’t new to the industry, or society. I also recognize, that we have the potential to expand upon these ideas, so I challenge our team to improve and revolutionize old thought processes, and develop them into our business strategy. Really, an idea is nothing unless it can be implemented the right way.

Simply put: Do more of what actually works. See through the fog and distinguish which idea (maybe ones you already have) can benefit your small business, and then do it better than everyone else.

Your ideas don’t matter. What does matter is the ability to recognize innovation, astutely apply it into your business approach, and use it as an instrument to your success.

Photo courtesy: Kevin Galens