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Who Do Good Ideas Come From?

filed in Innovation, Success

Everyone knows a good idea is a shortcut to success, profits and growth. Bad ideas lose. Good ideas win. This is why we are obsessed as a culture about where good ideas come from and how to have more of them. As we go in pursuit of a breakthrough idea we turn our gaze outward (but often not very far). We try using new tools and tactics or make changes to our environment in the hope that this will get our creative juices flowing. And then we increasingly look for proof in the data that our idea will work.

What Do All Good Ideas Have In Common?

There’s only one thing that every single idea from a recipe to a rocket has in common—and that’s a creator. Someone with a particular set of attributes who cared enough about solving a problem or creating change to come up with a solution. Why do we devote so many resources to optimising the environment to allow us to have more winning ideas, instead of wondering how we can improve our chances by changing ourselves.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
—Leo Tolstoy

We covet groundbreaking ideas, and we celebrate the people who have them. We believe in superstars and visionaries, in the power of Eureka! moments and special circumstances that set great ideas and their creators apart. Thousands of column inches are devoted to the singular genius of entrepreneurs like Sara Blakely, Richard Branson, John Lasseter, Elon Musk, James Dyson, Anita Roddick and Steve Jobs. Those who see and act on what others miss – the entrepreneurial pioneers who recognise opportunity as a hunch long before the world proclaims it as revolutionary. The supposed exceptions—not the rule.

Dollar Shave Club, the startup that disrupted the men’s grooming industry by selling quality razors direct to consumers at a cheaper price point, didn’t pioneer the invention of the disposable razor, and they weren’t the first company to use an ecommerce platform to reach customers. The CEO Michael Dubin’s role was to make the unexpected connections between the industry’s existing business model and a customer experience that left a lot to be desired – to create a brand that people would trust and become loyal to. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invent online social networks. Anita Roddick wasn’t the first to create a skincare company. James Dyson didn’t patent the first vacuum cleaner. Arianna Huffington didn’t launch the first online news website. Someone else was there with the ideas first, but the people we celebrate and want to emulate had an inkling about how to breathe new life into those products by making them meaningful to those who would use them. It’s possible to become that kind of person intentionally.

Those successful entrepreneurs, creatives and innovators—people just like you—who have harnessed their curiosity, empathy and imagination, seeking out opportunities to invent, create and serve. Every day is filled with those opportunities either seized or missed, ours for the taking if only we can learn to listen for them. Every breakthrough idea starts not with knowing for sure but by understanding why it might be important to try.

My new book Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into The Next Big Thing invites you to learn from the successes of those who have gone before you. It gives you the tools to notice more and to understand how to recognise opportunities others miss and create something the world is waiting for. There are hundreds of books that can help you with the process of making ideas happen. This is the one you need before you get to the execution stage. It’s an invitation to pay attention to your hunches, reawaken skills you’ve neglected or forgotten, and develop new capabilities you need. It’s your guided practice to a new way of seeing the world and embracing your unique potential on the road to uncovering groundbreaking ideas. Intuition alone won’t tell you exactly where ‘X’ marks the spot, but it can give powerful clues as to where you might begin to dig. This is the book you need if you’re ready to begin finding them. You can preorder Hunch using the links below.

Preorder Hunch At These Retailers

US
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
UK
Amazon
Waterstones
Australia
Book Depository
Dymocks
Canada
Amazon
International
Book Depository offers free international shipping.

Image by Ashley Rose.

The Value Question

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

What’s the one unanswered question you believe would unlock the most value in your business?

Why does it matter?

How would knowing the answer change your strategy?

Where can you find the information you need?

What’s stopping you?

Image by Derrick Story.

Problem Solving 2.0

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Think of any one of the myriad of challenges you might face this week. Deliveries are taking longer than expected. There’s a rise in customers complaints. The new product isn’t selling as well as you’d hoped. Your team isn’t gelling.

The solution to almost every problem usually begins with the same question.
How can we get better at this? Nine times out of ten this is the wrong question to begin with, because often what you’re aiming to improve isn’t the real cause of the problem. The better place to start is by asking; What’s the simplest route to the outcome we want?

We fix what’s broken by getting crystal clear about exactly where we want to go—not by obsessing about what we think is in the way.

Image by Nicholas Canup.

What Makes Or Breaks A Business?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

When we think about business successes or failures we focus on the highs and lows—the news-worthy triumphs or missteps. These are the moments in which we believe businesses are made or broken. Our theory couldn’t be further from the truth.

Businesses succeed or fail on an ordinary Friday afternoon when a difficult customer calls just before closing, and the minute we hire that receptionist we’re just not sure about. Businesses win in trying moments when ‘the rules’ are replaced by the right thing to do, and lose the second we prioritise process over humanity.

We win when we stop thinking about winning at all, and instead, embrace the equilibrium of doing our best work on the dull days when no one is looking.

Image by Matt Biddulph.

Why Meaning Is A Competitive Advantage

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The day after she turned fourteen, my mum (number ten in a family of eleven), woke early to catch the bus that would take her to work at her first full-time job in a sweet factory. I don’t remember her telling me about how she got the job. It’s likely it happened through word of mouth, and she never had an interview. The factory supervisor simply needed bodies who were motivated to clock in and do repetitive, mind-numbing work, that has long since been automated, for eight hours every day.

By the end of day one, my mum knew she wouldn’t care if she never saw a caramel toffee again. She wouldn’t spend her says dipping caramel squares into vats of pink and white icing. She told her widowed mother so as soon as she got home that evening. ‘I’m not going back,’ she said. Her protests fell on deaf ears. Work was work, and the family needed the money. She finally left the factory when she turned eighteen.

My mum’s greatest aspiration was to be a seamstress. She wanted to sew and to make things—later evidenced by the number of colour-coordinated fair isle patterned jumpers me and my brother and sister wore, for as long as she could make us. But she didn’t have the luxury of choosing.

Last year, one of my sons graduated with a degree in design and architecture. He commutes four hours a day, there and back, to a casual job where he works with his head, hands and heart—helping to design and build custom cubby houses that will bring joy to families in back yards around Melbourne for years. What’s worth more to him than the money in the bank at the end of the week, is the feeling he’s doing meaningful work each day. All the while his grandmother worries and wonders that the degree hasn’t landed him a steady, tie-wearing desk job.

Most people reading this are fortunate to be working for reasons beyond only bringing in enough money to put food on the table. We are the lucky ones—intrinsically motivated to do work we care about and enjoy. Work that gives us a sense of purpose while helping us to fulfil our potential.

In our quest for success, we spend the majority of our time chasing the kind of growth we believe bolsters the bottom line. We aim to expand our reach, convert more customers and overtake our competitors—sometimes at the expense of doing what lights us up. We often ignore the things that motivate us to do the great work that will ironically enable us to expand our reach, attract more customers, be competitive and feel fulfilled. When we prioritise meaning the marketing and sales fall into place. Putting purpose before profits is still and underrated business strategy.

Image by Frans Persoon.

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