There are tangible benefits to being “the ideas person”.
Networking: If you are the ideas person, you will get to meet all sorts of people. Any good idea needs a patron, so some will be senior and it will need detail, so you have to interact with people from all over the place.
Exposure: You will become known around the business as the ideas person and people will come to you. This is always a good thing and can help with getting promoted and offered new roles.
Knowledge: As you dive into different areas, you will get a deep cross functional knowledge base which will become very useful to you and your peers.
Fun: Big ideas are fun and it is an immensely rewarding role. Seeing a project from inception to finish is a great feeling.
So how do I become the ideas person?
Firstly you need to be able to spend time on ideas and to be supported in doing this. If it is not your job, line managers can take a poor view of working on other projects. The way to get around this is to start by working on lunchbreaks and free time on ideas to prove the business worth of being able to help out. If you can get some ideas to take hold and get buy in from a project mentor, this can help.
People need to know you want to help with ideas. Idea people often have great networks that help them get problems in as well as to find people to help solve them. Start by talking to your immediate circle and spread out from there. If you manage to help with a successful idea, make sure people know you were involved and are available to help others.
There is no opportunity for big ideas without problems or projects. This can often be chicken and egg, as people are unwilling to bring problems to you until you are proven. To break this cycle, look at issues you know that are a problem and see if you can come up with a solution. A lot of larger companies have programs that foster innovation. Get involved in these and do your best to get noticed. If your company does not have one, see if you can start one and be a key part of it.
You are only as good as your last idea and your willingness to help. If it gets busy, people need to know that you are willing to help. Set their expectations on timelines and deliver on them. Try to give every opportunity an idea. Even if it is not what they want, you have shown a willingness to help. If you start saying no, people will stop asking.
You need a thick skin to be the ideas person. A lot of ideas will get a no and very few will make it all the way to implementation. Don’t take it personally, get on and work on the next idea. Ideas are fun, but can be hard work and you need to start it all again tomorrow.
Two minds are better than one. It is really helpful to bounce ideas off other people, so find an ideas buddy. Someone who can give you honest feedback and help you develop your ideas. You can build this into a mini network and use this as an ideas bank. Ideas sometimes need kicking around to develop them and a variety of viewpoints can be very helpful.
So start small and find a problem you can help with. A definable problem is great, as there is a real thing to solve. Then start throwing some ideas around. Get a good one and refine it so it is easily understandable. Then see if you can sell it. Just remember, first time up, you are likely to get a no. The best ideas people are the ones who can take this feedback and use it to come up with a better solution and keep going. Keep chipping away and eventually you will get a yes.
Tom Tuke-Hastings is the author of new book, “It’s All About The Idea”. The book contains more examples and 52 creative steps to make you and your team more creative in the next year.
We all have some type of creative genius inside of us and the only way to release it is to work on it. However, a recent TED talk drummed home the fact that great implementers of creativity also have some peculiar traits.
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