Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance on Developing Powerful Ideas

The following is a guest post from Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance, authors of Breakthrough: A 7-Step System for Developing Unexpected and Profitable Ideas on the methodology behind arriving at a great idea.

Companies need new ideas the way people need food. It’s the energy that grows and sustains them. But where do they come from? And when was the last time you or your company came up with a breakthrough idea, product or service that not only made it to the marketplace, but transformed traditional expectations and captured the public’s imagination?

Put a methodology in place. There is no shortage of good ideas, but there’s a shortage of good environments where ideas can come to life. So what is the methodology?

STEP ONE: Put an end to business as usual—start by acknowledging that you’ve got to create a new way of thinking about your business. The classic question is, “How’s business?” And the ideal answer is “Great—but it could be better.” Don’t settle for “same old, same old” when it comes to your company’s approach to business. Everyone should demand a new way of thinking about what you do and how you do it.

STEP TWO: Get business buy-in. New ideas are the lifeblood of every business. But you’ve got to inspire a culture that requires ideas as a steady diet. No new idea has a chance to live if senior management isn’t behind it. So start selling the idea of Breakthrough! up the line and throughout the organization.

STEP THREE: Organize the team and process. Great ideas don’t happen in a vacuum; you should assemble the right team to brainstorm on new ideas, products and services. A new idea team should be cross-discipline. They should be business stakeholders. They should be true believers. They should be people from marketing, from sales, from research, from development… maybe even your legal department. And if you’re a small- to mid-sized business it should probably include a number of your senior-most executives like your Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

STEP FOUR: Land on the big idea. Once you’ve got the right structure and methodology in place, you have a healthy environment to start nurturing big ideas. Now it’s a question of generating the ideas. Any good brainstorming technique will work: try one, try them all. Build excitement for the process by spreading the wealth, offering rewards for company employees who come up with new idea suggestions. Remember: the people who work in the company have the best idea(s) of what you need to be doing different and better.

Build momentum for the idea. Don’t just spring the idea on management. You’ve got to do research, due diligence and determine the dimensions of the idea before making the sale internally. Is it competitively insulated? Can it be done legally? What does your target market think of the idea? You’ll look foolish proposing an idea to management that can’t be done—so do your homework, first. Then go make the sale!

STEP SIX: Develop the plan. Once you’ve got company buy-in, start building out the specific plan to bring your idea to market. What’s your budget? What’s your deliverable? What’s the process to make it happen? What’s the timeline? Who’s going to make it happen? There are dozens—maybe even hundreds—of questions that need to be answered to bring an idea from initial stages all the way to the marketplace.

STEP SEVEN: Let’s do launch! You’ve got to prepare and implement a valid test. Will the idea fly? Is it a service or product your customers really want? What tweaking do you need to do? There are all kinds of ideas that seem like winners—all the way up to test. But you’ve got to be prepared in your launch to revise and strengthen the idea as you go.

It’s that easy…and that hard! There are no shortcuts to developing breakthrough ideas, products and services; but if you put the right process in place you increase your odds of coming up with a big idea that can transform your business and put you on the cutting edge of the marketplace.

Paul Kurnit is a well-known marketing expert and marketing professor at Pace University whose achievements at agencies such as Benton and Bowles, Ogilvy and DDB’s Griffin Bacal include campaigns for Crest, American Express, and Transformers. He is co-author of The Little Blue Book of Marketing

Steve Lance is a thirty-year veteran of advertising and marketing and an award-winning copywriter and creative director. He is coauthor of The Little Blue Book of Advertising and co-author of The Little Blue Book of Marketing.


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