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When does an idea become an innovation?

When it’s implemented. That’s the easy answer. And the hardest part. Ideas are the offspring and the wellspring of creativity.

According to Wikipedia: “Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting).”

Something new, and something valuable. When creativity moves a business forward both are critical. New because it defines and gives differentiated meaning to your brand, your product or service. And valuable, for obvious reasons – to increase sales volume, to sell new things, to sell into different markets and to new customers, or to surprise the heck out of your current customers by understanding an unmet and unstated need, and to sell them (those who already know and love you) something new.

You know that person, that leader, that colleague, or consultant who always has the craziest ideas? That’s the creative mind. But that doesn’t mean they can innovate.

They are the ones who have the ideas. Getting the ideas out from their big brains, breathing life into them, understanding all the inherent and hidden and never-before-explored challenges in making them real is another set of skills completely. That takes putting them (the ideas) to work. And the greatest, coolest, most breakthrough ideas only become innovations when they are put into practice. Having been the one with ideas in too many situations to count, that’s the hardest part.

It takes committing to design thinking, moving fast, and getting messy.

  • Create. Build. Prototype.

  • Learn. Iterate. Repeat.

Fast, faster, fastest. Your creative idea is great, no, it’s amazing. Hold on to it and at the same time look deeply at all the non-creative things necessary to get over the hurdles to implementation.

Logistics. Legalities. Partnerships. Timing. Internal politics. Competitive forces. These are not the sexy stuff that ideas are made of. And they are very real on the road to implementation. Without them, it’s just another cool idea.

So dig in and do the hard parts, after you get over the glow of having the idea. Don’t let your creativity die on the boards. As Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche recently wrote, “NO matter how great an idea is, it’s not an innovation unless it advances a company.”

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