New ideas are great. And although it is part of the creative and leadership essence and role to constantly generate new ideas, our addiction to new ideas is also what often leaves us milling around aimlessly in a plateau filled with skeletons of abandoned ideas.
As we move further along the trajectory of execution, our ideas become less interesting as we realize the implied responsibilities and sheer amount of work require to execute them. Our energy, commitment and willingness to tolerate the navigation of details and sometimes painful process of execution rob us of the natural high we experience when the idea was first conceived – and we are left mucking through the muddy waters of project plateau, feeling drained, tired and, at moments, uncertain of its validity. I tenderly refer to this place as the valley of the shadow of death – the place where dreams are abandoned and dreamers avoid.
The easiest and most seductive escape from the project plateau is the most dangerous one: a new idea.
A project plateau is more emotional than physical, it’s mental more than actual. It’s our, at times, screwed perception of the validity and viability of the idea when we’re lost in process and essential elements of making our ideas happen.
– SCOTT BELSKY
So how do we push through the project plateau, embracing the necessary process in order to see and experience the end result in our ideas realized?
1. Have a Clear Vision
Where are you going? What problem are you solving? What is the preferred outcome? What needs to be different? Why the new idea? In order to push through any project plateau, you need to have a clear vision of your desire outcome. Develop a conviction about what you’re doing. If you’re just looking for something fun, fresh and exciting, you’ll always be jumping to the new idea – but if you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll have the commitment to stay on course.
2. Kill Ideas Liberally
Embrace the fact the not every idea is an idea worth developing. I know, we are all cringing right now, but in order to say “Yes” to the right idea, we have to say “NO” to more ideas. It’s been said that Apple only actionized 1 out of every 1000 ideas Steve Jobs came in with. Meaning, they had to say “NO” 999 times so they could say “YES” once and make the iPhone, iPad, etc. Allow a period of scrutiny around every new idea, summoning a dose of skepticism to ground your judgement. If it’s a good idea, it can sustain scrutiny.
3. Seek Constraint’s
Whether they are deadlines, budgets, core values or specific opinions or convictions, constraints help us manage our energy and execute ideas. Our minds become more focused when the realm of possibilities are defined and, to some extent, restricted. Constraints in their purest form, help us find the right balance so we can feed off the project’s parameters rather than feel frustrated or unduly constrained, and ultimately help us stay focused on what’s important. Simplicity requires no exceptions.
4. Celebrate the Little Wins
We are motivated by progress. When we see concrete evidence of progress, we are more inclined to take further action. Feeling progress is an important part of the execution. We all want to know that what we doing is making a difference – that WE are making a difference – adding value to the project or organization. By pushing through any project plateau, you and your team can celebrate that the sweet victory of a done well done.
To discover more ways to push through your project plateau, check out Scott Belsky’s book, Making Ideas Happen.