Turning ideas into action

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Author: Al Chiaradonna
Date: Spring 2015
From: Financial Executive(Vol. 31, Issue 2)
Publisher: Financial Executives International
Document Type: Column
Length: 1,656 words
Lexile Measure: 1050L

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The other day, my 10-year-old daughter, Anna, told me she wanted to write a book. I was thrilled. I immediately saw this as a bonding opportunity; one of those great teachable moments about how to turn her idea into real action. Easy, right?

As executives, we do this all the time. We develop ideas, set strategy, convene planning meetings and lead budget sessions. We ask and answer questions about value propositions, target markets, distribution costs, projected sales, etc. But these foreign concepts to my 10-year-old would likely dampen any creative spark for her new book Idea. That realization ignited a question of my own: how many ideas suffer the same preemptive bureaucratic death in the corporate world? This is not a theoretical question.

Today, our ability to turn real ideas into action is arguably the most critical role we play as leaders. And this is not a new pursuit; it has dogged innovators for centuries. Thomas Edison faced the same challenges, often saying, "Ideas without execution are just hallucinations." We all know new Ideas are critical to moving the world forward, but ideas themselves aren't worth anything without solid execution. So how can leaders do a better job of driving ideas to completion?

Think about it. There are stories upon stories of companies that had a dynamic idea or proprietary technology, but fell off the map after they failed to execute or innovate. As leaders, we need to learn from these examples and do a better job turning ideas into action, or risk the same fate. So, partially inspired by my daughter, here's the new leadership agenda, comprised of the five building blocks of effective idea activation.

Building Block #1: Dream Without Fear

All innovation begins with a dream. Whether it's from a 10-year-old or a CEO, a dream creates energy and excitement. A dream keeps everyone excited and focused on helping the company change and grow in a unified direction. A good dream comes to life for those around it. Dreams are more than just words like "make money" or "we want to grow the business. " Consider Walt Disney. Perhaps one of the most visionary leaders in American history, he had a remarkable ability to talk about his company and ideas tangibly, visually and vlscerally. When he spoke, people around him felt his words. They saw what he saw. They were excited and engaged--like a child at one of his parks.

Next time you speak to your company as an executive, make...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A417022047