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Avoid Project Plateau & Make Ideas Happen

Written by: on  February 3, 2012

//2014 UPDATE: For a step by step guide with a proven leader who makes ideas happen, check this out. This is how a leader assembles a four person team to pull off projects that bring in millions. You can read our interview with Sanjay Razdan //

We’ve all been there, big energetic ideas appear and your team dives into work, only to find the energy and excitement giving away to long, monotonus hours… and new ideas float by, full of excitement and the temptation to switch focus. Scott Belsky is an expert in organisational culture, researching how companies follow through and actually make ideas happen. Let’s dive into his TEDx talk that addresses this common case of project plateau that appropriatly starts with an Eddison quote:

Genius is 1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration – most ideas never happen

 

At the start of an idea the energy and excitement is extremely high, but after a while the execution becomes hard work. This is known as ‘The Project Plateau’, and most ideas don’t materialize from here as it’s all too tempting to just come up with another idea to recreate that initial feeling of excitement.

Organisational Culture: The project plateau

So what’s involved in pushing an idea to completion? and how is it that some people and teams defy the odds and make things happen?

Organisational-Formula

How do we overcome reactionary workflow? How do we create an organisational culture for deep thinking – away from the business of social media interaction? How are people organising?

Belsky’s research with individuals around organisation showed that:

48% – felt more mess than order

31% – more order than mess

14% – utter chaos

Only 7% of people felt really organised

When it comes to organisation and execution, highly effective companies measure the value of their meetings in action steps, and some just have standing meetings to ensure time isn’t wasted.. Effective organisations create a culture of capturing action points and content make rather than commentate. Great teams also surround themselves with constant sense of progress.

Apple, he says, is arguably one of the most organised companies in the world. It’s highly creative, but gets things done! Management is key to creativity. Additionally he discusses the mix of personalities that are important in creating a highly proactive and progressive team:

  • Dreamers are creative thinkers and are always coming up with ideas, and contributions to ideas
  • Doers love to have everything mapped out as planned, so they can execute a strategy
  • Incrementalists flit in between Doers and Dreamers, and will add in small contributions, but can have a tendency to do this continuously and can often add in too much.

Belsky suggests you surround yourself with all 3 types in order to ensure ideas are executed well.

Leaders need to allow the Dreamers to dream, let the Doers control the execution, and prevent new ideas killing the implementation of an idea. They have to  ‘buy’ engagement and allow everyone to contribute and find and empower the ‘hotspots’ in an organisation, which are the places and people everyone goes to in order to find answers.

 

You’ve probably experienced project plateau a least a few times. What helped you follow through on the idea(s)?

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  • Ideas are one thing but being able to execute is another. As a doer, I often find that having too many ideas makes it difficult for me to execute. I like to take one or two things and then develop a plan. When you have too many dreamers on a team, there is often too much excitement around the ideas and not enough focus on a plan to execute any of those ideas.

  • I know what you are saying Kimberlee. Often the attention is spread too thin as there are too many ideas and not enough execution. Got any tactics for dealing with a group that comprises of too many dreamers?

  • My first thought is that the team needs to be balanced somehow. There needs to be someone on every team willing to say, “hey all these ideas are great, but which ones are we going to focus on?” When I have too many ideas thrown at me, I make note, figure out which of those ideas will get me closer to my top priority goal. If the idea doesn’t fit, I typically put it off until later. The key here is communicating the why to the dreamers so they don’t think that I didn’t find their ideas valuable.