Iron Rule #9
Dec 1, 1997 12:00 PM,
Iron Rule #9: Sometimes you can stumble on a good idea. And successfulentrepreneurs always have their idea antennae out by always looking andalways reading.
Okay, I admit it. This is my favorite Iron Rule. This is the one that givesyou everything you will accomplish in business. It will reward you withsuccess after success and an enviable track record that will provide yourcontemporaries and subordinates alike with a curiosity as to how in theworld you come up with all those great ideas.
Understand that we are all as intelligent as the other. Sure, some of ushave a higher IQ; some of us have a lower one. But regardless, we are allin the average to above average range of intelligence if we areentrepreneurs and managers. Having said that, it is important that weunderstand that each of us starts with a clean slate. What is it thatseparates the truly successful from the mediocre? The mediocre from thepoor? The poor from the abject failures? That question has befuddled me,confused me, caused me a great deal of anguish and, ultimately, provided mewith some of my greatest frustration. That is, until I realized that ideasdon’t just happen, but rather evolve from a mental and psychologicaldiscipline that causes our intellectual antennae to always be out theresearching, almost like a divining rod, looking for that one elusive ideathat will enhance your business substantially.
How do we get these ideas? How do we nurture them? How do we even recognizethem? The answer to those questions are as close as your nearest bookcassette program, public library and even the magazine you are reading.Each session you have with yourself in your search mode can yield nuggetsof solid gold for you as a manager. But it also requires a discipline mostof us don’t have. Here is one way to develop that discipline: Listen to acassette. Read an article. Read a chapter of a book on business until youfind an idea applicable to the work you do and then stop. Write down theidea on a piece of paper, limiting what you write to a couple of sentences.Then, immediately under what you’ve written, put down a couple of sentencesabout how the idea applies to your work, what you will do to implement itand, finally, what results you expect the idea to yield.
If you can, force yourself to do this for about 15 to 20 minutes a day,every day. What you will have achieved is an ongoing relationship withideas for you and your business.
That’s just the start of how this whole process works. Business lunches,power breakfasts, management and association activities, tradeorganizations, trade shows, industry conventions and seminars all providethe antennae-out entrepreneur with the opportunity to obtain good ideas.This requires two important tools on your part. You always have to have apencil and paper available. An idea forgotten is usually lost for good. Anidea written down is one that will survive a test of time and will be onethat you can come repeatedly come back to.
I write a column called Great Ideas in Leadership for another magazine. Inthose articles, I ask two or three leaders in the burglar and fire alarmindustry, “What is the single best idea you have that could be shared withother people in their industry?” Some of the ideas these people have areoverwhelming, some are merely awesome and others, well, not quite so good.But almost invariably, the ideas cause both readers and I to think aboutwhat their intent was and what needs to be done in order to make thoseideas happen. An idea can involve operations, sales, management, any partof your business or even the business itself.
Most of the really great ideas come out because a creative entrepreneur hadhis antennae out and was programmed in the search mode. Are your antennaeout? Do you even have an idea antennae? If not, why not think about thealternatives to having great ideas? Sometimes, the alternatives are lesspleasant than the mental activity required to avoid them. Happy hunting foryour ideas!