May 22, 2006
Liz published this at 11:25 am
Do you recognize where we are? We’ve been here before. This is the place where I tell you that ideas are already in your head, that it’s a matter of letting yourself have them — not shutting them out. It’s when I remind you that you can be an idea magnet again. I tell you that ideas are waiting for you. I ask you if you’ve started seeing and hearing them.
Whew! Now that the dÃƒÂ©jÃƒÂ vu is over. We can get on with sparking spectacular ideas.
Caution: Now Entering Liz Think Zone
Spectacular ideas don’t look or act differently than other ideas, except in one way. They have that extra appeal — that perfect mix of practical and emotional, that stop folks in their tracks, unforgettable, that I want to have this — detail. I’m not going to beat you over the head with places to find them. I’ll get you started with three sparkers for spectacular ideas. I’m confident you’ll know where to go from there.
- If I could rule the world . . . Everyone has played this game at some point or another. Look at a product, a process, or a pet peeve you encounter everyday. Find one tiny way you might change it to suit you better, one little thing that would make you feel, “Hey, this sure smooths the rough edges. I kind of like this.” At the very least, spectacular ideas take away things that irritate.
- Hold a survey one person at a time. Paula Poundstone says that the reason grown-ups ask kids, What do you want to be when you grow up? is that grown-ups are looking for ideas. She’s got the right technique. Ask people the same question one at a time. Ask about tiny wishes, desires, and needs. You might frame your questions like these: What is one tiny thing you would change about your refrigerator? What do you wish you could tell your favorite online store? If you could add one tiny feature to the software you use most often, what would it be? Spectacular ideas fix things and give us something to look forward to.
- Be your own customer. This is the biggest one and the one we most often forget. Try out your own ideas. I have seen less than spectacular ideas that were funded and marketed for one reason only. Someone thought the idea was wonderful, just because he or she had it. Each of them failed fabulously. If you look for the chinks in your own armor from the start, you’ll find something special hiding in one of them. That little chink will force you to find a solution that other folks might not have pursued. Find that solution, make it pass the hardest test, and you will have a spectacular idea. Spectacular ideas are hiding inside the weaknesses of ideas that don’t work.
There you have three ways to get to a WOW effect. Are they simple? Yes and no. Simple is always harder than complex when you’re talking ideas. But if you look in the tiny places, the details of what’s already there, you’ll see that the polish — the diamond in the rough — is always waiting for you under the muck.
This is not fixing what’s not broken. It’s knowing that everything can be made brighter, friendlier, and more useful. It could be as simple as a smile for every customer and a “Do I Know Your Name?” Spectacular is in the details.
What tiny WOW will you make happen today?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
The 10 Skills Most Critical to Your Future
Critical Skill 5A: 3 Parts of Spectacular Ideas
See also the SUCCESSFUL SERIES PAGE for Writing Power, Thinking Outside of the Box, and Future Skills.