How to Create a Great Idea? Part 2: The Great Idea

This is perhaps the trickiest post to write in the series, as there’s no magic formula for developing a Great Idea. It can come at any time, from almost anyone. But first, let’s define what we mean by the very term, and then go into what the conditions are that make it more likely to emerge.

A Great Idea, in our vernacular, is one that is game-changing or revolutionary for the organization or brand. A core idea that transforms the business – and in some cases the category.

For a company like Toyota, the “just in time” supply chain idea. For Apple, the Genius Counter. Or the very business model of ING Direct. These are Great Ideas.

A Great Idea is not for everyone (though everyone wants one).

What are the conditions that are most conducive for developing a Great Idea? They include the more conventional factors, such as:

– Senior leadership that makes investments in innovation and R&D

– A company culture that encourages risk-taking, healthy debate and experimentation

– Compensation structures that reward successful idea generation and/or innovation

All of which is well and good. But there’s one factor that trumps everything: The company finds itself facing either a major opportunity, or a major precipice.

One must be highly motivated to create and implement a Great Idea, as it’s not easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s disruptive, costs money, requires effort and a relatively high tolerance for risk. The motivation can be intrinsic, as in an innate desire to change the world, lead one’s industry, break new ground, etc. Or it can be extrinsic, as in a patent cliff in pharma/biotech, or a major technological or demographic shift looming on the horizon. It could be a merger or acquisition or partnership where you can make a killing – or lose your shirt.

Whatever the reason, you must be highly motivated to tolerate the change that will result. Great Ideas are not for those who want status quo, or who are simply lazy. They are for the intrepid. For people who aren’t afraid to aim high.