Converting ideas into actions

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Are you a talker or a doer? Being the right role means a huge dif¬fer¬ence between suc¬cess and fail¬ure in almost any call¬ings. And you guessed what the right role is… the doer.

So how can we trans¬form from the super¬flu¬ous talker to the prac¬ti¬cal, suc¬cess¬ful doer? That is easier said than done, and it cer¬tainly doesn’t just involve the mere talk¬ing about it. Becom¬ing a doer in it requires action, not just talking. Sri Lanka is famous to produce great talkers and we see it in the arenas of politics, religion, public service and in some business enterprises. If the power of ‘talking’ generated results, our country’s GDP would have surpassed that of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, all put together.

Talk¬ers don’t real¬ise, sometimes, the fact that ideas are worth dime a dozen. Let’s face it, no matter how good your idea might be, there’s a pretty good chance that some¬body else on this very pop¬u¬lated planet have thought of it before. Then, why haven’t you seen it before? That’s because nobody else has exe¬cuted it.

Talk¬ing about how great your idea is will not make the idea exe¬cute itself. In fact, the mere talk¬ing about it and at the same time imag¬in¬ing how it would have turned out suc¬cess¬ful is vanity in the recess of your mind. That feels good because all you need is invest is vir¬tu¬ally no energy and you can get the feel¬ing of suc¬cess from within. Have been talk¬ing about losing that extra pound for years and still haven’t suc¬ceeded? Then there’s a good chance you’ve been talk-ing too much and doing too little.

Listed below is my to-do list for get¬ting out of the “talk zone”:Vice President of the Institute of World Problems USA Nalin Jayasuriya with Hari Vacal in Kalamata, Greece at the World Peace Award ceremony

1. Solid sched¬ule of actions

I delib¬er¬ately avoided the word “plan” in the title because that’s just another talk word. A sched¬ule is dif¬fer¬ent from a plan in that it has a def¬i¬nite time of exe¬cu¬tion included. So instead of “I’m going to learn to play the guitar,” you say, “I will prac¬tice play¬ing the guitar from 7 to 9 p.m. every Wednes¬day, Friday and Sunday”. Treat your sched¬ule with respect as you would if it was an exam¬i¬na¬tion ses¬sion. Don’t aban¬don it for your friends’ parties.

2. Vivid vision of your goal

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remem¬ber. I do and I understand” – Con¬fu¬cius. From the ancient wisdom of China we can see that the next step to “remembering” your cre¬ative ideas is to “see” it. This can be achieved by writ¬ing them down in big let¬ters where you’ll see them every day, to draw¬ing pic¬tures of you per¬form¬ing your actions and hang them in places such as the toilet and bed¬room ceil¬ing so you will remem¬ber to do your actions.

Living in this age and soci¬ety full of dis¬trac¬tions it is all too easy to forget about our goals, or dreams even. Ready to get out for a jog and then you see the pre¬lude of a drama show on TV? You’d prob¬a¬bly decide you can “relax today” and watch that show which serves you no true pur-pose. Counter that with your own “shows” by stick¬ing vivid reminders of what you want to do.

3. Start small, but realistic

One thing most talk¬ers do in common is they’ll describe in every detail how their plans will work out in the ideal sit¬u¬a¬tion. While those ideas might the¬o¬ret¬i¬cally very viable, they’re worth zero when the talk¬ers have major trou¬bles get¬ting their butts to per¬form the sim¬plest actions, let alone their “marvellous plans”.

Many talk¬ers might have tried to become a doer but failed all because they faced fail¬ures right after they started. Start¬ing small but real¬is¬tic means gath¬er¬ing momen¬tum for your plans. For exam¬ple, instead of saying “I’ll start study¬ing for two hours every day start¬ing tomorrow” and feel¬ing mis¬er¬able in the middle to finally giving up 45 min¬utes in, settle at “I’ll study for 30 min-utes a day start¬ing tomorrow” and cel¬e¬brate your vic¬to¬ries. Before you know it, you’ll find your-self enjoy¬ing a three hour study fest!

Enough talk¬ing, I’m going to get moving to do some¬thing. Think about the plans you’ve been thinking/talking about and haven’t been really doing and start becom¬ing a doer right now!

“The ability to convert ideas to things is the secret to outward success” – Henry Ward Beecher, American prominent Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist up to and during the Civil War, author, speaker and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1813-1887)

Sometimes we sit in the recovery rooms and wonder what it is that causes others to limit themselves so much. As we listen to the various tales of woe, aren’t we often struck by two somewhat simultaneous thoughts? On the one hand, we can relate to pain and misery, since we certainly have been there ourselves. On the other hand, we are a little uncomfortable that the individual can’t seem to shake out of his or her malaise and get on with the program – that is, moving ahead in recovery.

Maybe what is lacking is the ability to first have an idea and then to work on a plan to make that idea into something that can be done.

Let’s reminisce for a minute about our own past. How long did it take us when we first entered recovery to even have a positive thought, let alone an idea that we sparked to and motivated us to action? After all, action is what recovery is all about. It isn’t words or thoughts, but deeds that make the difference. Others undoubtedly cut us some slack, recognising themselves in us as we should be able to recognise ourselves in newcomers today.

Here’s another secret about putting ideas into action. Not all of them will work. We have to be flexible enough to realise that our best endeavours will sometimes turn out to be less than we expected. This doesn’t mean that our actions are a failure, however. Far from it, in fact. We do need to learn what we can about why our actions that sprang from our ideas fell a bit short and figure out what can make it better.

In some respects, trying to make ideas work is a bit like traversing a maze. We know there is something at the end of the maze but we may need to hit a few dead-ends before we find the way. If we are persistent and learn from where we have been, we’ll make it. It’s really about as simple as that.

Now, once we have a little experience turning ideas into things we can actually do, we start to feel an increased measure of self-confidence. At last, something we thought of and put together actually worked. It may have even worked out far better than we had anticipated, which adds to our stores of self-esteem. It’s this slow and steady progress that helps ensure our long-term success in recovery. Remember what worked, and do more of that. The more we’re able to brainstorm ideas and turn them into actions we can tackle, the more progress we’ll make in our recovery.

Do we place too much emphasis on good ideas in business and not enough on organisation? That’s what Scott Belsky, CEO of Behance Network and author of Making Ideas Happen, thinks. In his book he argues that while ideas for new businesses or solutions to problems are common, great execution is rare. He emphasises the need for organisation and strategic thinking, offering practical advice about how to convert ideas into actions. I have learned over the years to take advantage of opportunity that is available. I know that all opportunities don’t come my way. I only need to see an opportunity and I then know how to make it come my way. The sad thing is that people wait for opportunities to direct themselves to wishful thinkers. It is important to have a personal vision and see how that gets supported by the company’s vision. Hence, while the vision of the company directs the path of its business, your engagement with the company in contributing with an honest heart to meet its objective should have a ‘spin off’ in supporting your progress with your personal vision.

Here are five tips for turning vision into reality:

Learn to compromise

Recognise the need to overcome our natural tendencies to come up with more ideas, not impose structure and not have deadlines or budget. You shouldn’t dwell on getting an idea 100 percent right. Instead you should be happy to move things forward with it mostly right. Part of this is the need to “act without conviction”, contrary to the recommendations of our parents who told us to think before we act.

You should be taking micro-actions as soon as we have ideas in order to test their viability, as opposed to having endless brainstorming meetings to get the idea perfect. By being half as creative and twice as organised you can be incredibly productive and outshine those companies that have one incredible idea.

Don’t shy away from a fight

The creative process often leads to arguments between key stakeholders. However, people often shy away from it. Belsky argues that a creative team should embrace the fighting, because it is through this debate that you achieve breakthroughs. Not fighting demonstrates apathy, which kills the creative process. Many companies wear the fact that they fight as a badge of honour to show that they aren’t afraid to challenge each other’s ideas to come up with a better one.

Ensure your team owns the idea as much as you do

Some of the most productive creative leaders engage people early to make everyone else feel like it’s their idea. If the person who had the idea insists on being the sole creative visionary and others are just tasked with execution, there’ll be a lower degree of ownership. “You want to have as many people as possible who are up at night thinking about how to make it happen. Ideas push forward much more quickly when you have bought the engagement of your team -- that’s often the difference between it happening or not.” This will also help ensure you don’t get beaten by the “project plateau”, the point after which the initial excitement of an idea subsides where you have to get stuck in with the hard graft.

Ceate media-free windows

Constant connectivity isn’t always a good thing. The endless torrent of emails, social media updates and phone calls leads to “reactionary workflow” where you go all day reacting rather than being proactive about what matters the most. So you need to create what Belsky describes as “window of non-stimulation”, where you don’t open your inbox or look at your day-to-day to do list, instead focusing on two or three things you are looking to work on long term. He adds: “It’s a luxury because as soon as you open everything else, your whole day is gone.”

Tolerate risk

Startups tend to be good at tolerating risk, because you are constantly trying something new, failing and then learning how to do it better until you succeed. However, large companies tend not to tolerate failure, with their reward structures designed to minimise risk. In order to innovate, you should take a leaf out of Google’s book and create allowances for failure. Google allows their staff to spend twenty percent of their time on projects that they are passionate about, regardless of their relevance to their core job. Belsky explains: “It allows people to do completely crazy things that otherwise they’d be penalised for doing when they fail, and that’s very powerful.”

Converting business ideas into action

Situation: Business plans often don’t work out as we hope. It may be a matter of just falling short of last month’s production or sales target or a significant gap between what you thought could be achieved and what your team actually delivered.

It’s disappointing and annoying. Your best intentions for getting things done are derailed and blown off course. Your hard work and effort amount to not much where results are weak and well short of the mark. Worse still, you are being assessed on your ability to extract a high level of performance from your team. The situation makes you look ineffective.

Foundation gaps: A truck load of reasons can be put forward as to why business operations run out of steam and targets aren’t achieved. My experience, based upon working with many managers, workers and business owners, indicates four core reasons why well intentioned day-to-day operations, campaigns and projects fail to meet objectives. I call these “foundation gaps” as they are gaps in the basic building blocks of good business practices.

Foundation gaps

  • Reluctance in learning from past mistakes
  • Deficient planning
  • Weak implementation
  • Insufficient monitoring and adjustment.

Overcoming foundation gaps

The Balmattum Management approach to overcoming foundation gaps includes six strategies.

1.Team leaders sharing ideas and plans for the future with team members and inviting their comments and ideas.

2.Gathering relevant and timely information from far and wide to contribute to effective decision making.

3.Actioning plans as soon as possible. Asking everyone concerned to get on board and make it happen. Delegating tasks and sharing the workload.

4.Team leaders with the courage to face challenges undaunted and persevering with action plans through to completion.

5.Demonstrating enthusiasm and encouraging team members to do their best.

6.Measuring outcomes, giving feedback to team members and making any necessary adjustments.

Team members’ ideas

A powerful strategy is inviting team members’ ideas to identify missed opportunities and solve operational problems. After all, they are the ones closest to the operational action of your business, and they experience inefficiencies and waste first hand.

That’s not to say that discovering team members’ ideas is always straight forward. Sometimes it can be difficult to extract ideas depending on how well previous contributions from team members have been handled. This underscores the need for sensitive and respectful handling of team members when seeking practical and innovative contributions from them.

Converting business ideas into action program

In response, the converting business ideas into action program is an action initiative for overcoming foundation gaps and giving your business greater opportunity for success. The Program’s core is tapping into an often under-utilised resource, the thinking power of team members. The converting business ideas into action program addresses specific business areas that you and your team have identified as requiring improvement. The program harnesses the combined thinking power of team members in drilling down to fundamental causes of problems and coming up with ideas for solving them.

Ideas are discussed, developed and fashioned into an easy to follow step-by-step Action Plan. Implementation support is provided as we all know that even the best laid plans may sit on the shelf gathering dust unless a concerted effort is made to convert good ideas into reality.

(The writer is the Managing Director & CEO, McQuire Rens & Jones (Pvt) Ltd. He has held Regional Responsibilities of two Multinational Companies of which one, Smithkline Beecham International, was a Fortune 500 company before merging to become GSK. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Nalin has been consultant to assignments in the CEB, Airport & Aviation Services and setting up the PUCSL. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka. He has won special commendation from the UN Headquarters in New York for his record speed in re-profiling and re-structuring the UNDP. He has lead consultancy assignments for the World Bank and the ADB. Nalin is an executive coach to top teams of several multinational and blue chip companies. He is a Director on the Board of Entrust Securities Plc.)


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