By Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance
What’s the Big Idea?
Not just THE Big Idea…what’s YOUR Big Idea?
Is your company creating breakthrough, winning products and services within your industry? Is the pursuit of Big Ideas standard operating procedure for your business? Why does it always seem that other companies develop new ideas, products and services while you continue to struggle to hold onto your existing share of market? Why aren’t you able to cultivate big, new ideas let alone move your good idea to the next step? Why aren’t you taking steps to make your company the next Apple or Google or Starbucks or Dell or Lite Beer, even Chia Pet or any other one of the hundreds of global phenomena?
Yeah? We’re waiting…
When was the last time you or your company came up with a breakthrough idea, product or service? Never? Wait…never say never. We all come up with good ideas all the time. But it’s not just about coming up with great ideas; it’s about coming up with terrific ideas that actually make it to market. So how come your good ideas don’t make it to market? And if it they did, how come they didn’t succeed? Why aren’t you occupying the corner office at your company? Why aren’t you rich, retired and living la vida loca in Costa Rica?
Okay, fair enough, we’re being a bit tough on you…and we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Since this is our book and you’re still reading, let’s give you what we believe is the right answer:
“It’s so difficult at our company. There are so many impediments to getting at and launching Big Ideas.” Yes, that’s YOUR right answer. And it’s so easy to remain complacent and paralyzed behind that answer. But the real right answer is “you don’t know there are steps you have to take.”
People think breakthrough ideas are a matter of luck. The truth is, they’re the result of careful thinking, planning and execution. Smart steps can take a great idea and drive a brilliant result (yes, with a manageable dose of luck thrown into the mix). But without managing the smart steps there’s virtually no chance that you’ll land on, let alone launch, a Big Idea.
So what’s your plan for making the seemingly impossible, possible?
Look around you. Every year, even in the worst of times, companies and individuals come to market with extraordinarily fresh, successful ideas. In fact, many of the best and biggest ideas have been spawned in the worst of times. Adversity often inspires creativity. When times are really tough, risk taking seems less risky.
One thing that many of the best of the Big Ideas tend to have in common is virtually everyone says the idea makes no sense (when they first hear it). There’s no way it could ever succeed.
- Starbucks. Coffee at $3 a cup? Who would spend so much for a dollar cup of joe?
- Perdue. Turn chicken into a brand name? Ridiculous. Who needs a brand of chicken?
- GI Joe. Dolls for boys? Absurd. Boys don’t play with dolls.
- Google. A search engine? Who needs a new search engine when you’ve got Netscape and Internet Explorer?
- JetBlue. Who needs another low-cost airline? Especially to Florida.
- Twitter. We have instant messaging and texting. We already have blogging. Who’s going to micro-blog in 140-character messages?
Do you think they were all just lucky? Well, what about companies that got it wrong the first time but didn’t give up?
- Procter & Gamble invented disposable diapers. But they had to relaunch Pampers multiple times before they found the winning message and created an entirely new product category.
- Pringles. Same story. An initial failure as a “stacked-chips-in-a-can” product. A success as a convenient, flavorful alternative to “greasy, regular chips.”
- E*TRADE. A backroom processing application. Until their chairman was smart enough to see that the digital revolution meant the company could go directly to consumers and create a new industry called “online trading.”
Are you getting the message? Virtually every successful product or service out there came to market because someone initially said, “This is a good idea.”
Is that all you need?
If saying “this is a good idea” was it all took, then everyone would be an inventor with a multi-million-dollar idea to his or her credit. You need something more than just the good idea. You need the guts and conviction to bring the idea to life, and you need the intelligence and stick-to-itiveness to fulfill the following key statements:
“We can make this.”
“We can make it happen.”
“We can figure out the audience and the message.”
“We can commit resources, time and energy to do it.”
In other words, you need a plan.
You with us so far? Good. Now for the hard part. Without even knowing your company, product or service, we’ll guarantee that you don’t know what the steps are to uncovering and launching your Big Idea. Why can we make that claim? Because if you did know how to do it, you’d have been a huge success by now and we’d have read your story in Business Week, Forbes, Fortune and online.wsj.com.
Ouch. Yeah, that hurts. But we’re trying to make a point. Which is that winning ideas aren’t just the brainstorm of inspiration, but the result of a methodical, step-by-step process of development, refinement, targeting, marketing and marketplace execution.
Miss any of the steps or get any of the steps wrong and you’re doomed to failure. Get ‘em all right and there’s still a chance the market won’t be ready for you. Bottom line: it’s a crapshoot. But you can improve the odds tremendously in your favor by putting together a structured process. In other words, it might be a crapshoot but with some smart planning, you can be the house.
That’s what Breakthrough! A 7-Step System for Developing Unexpected and Profitable Ideas is about. It outlines a step-by-step method for bringing Big Ideas, new products or services to market.
Over the years, we’ve watched and participated in the launch of many successful products and services. We’ve also watched and like many of you (we’re humbled to admit) participated in the launch of a few huge failures.
We’ve come to understand the kind of vision and commitment it takes to get good ideas right and great ideas to market. Along the way we’ve seen and participated in the combination of delicious ingredients that lead to tasty success.
Breakthrough! is the distillation of all those winning steps. They’re steps you can put into place no matter what your situation:
- You’re the CEO of a major corporation and want to revitalize the company and its products or services.
- You’re a brand manager at a packaged goods company and want to extend your brand to take advantage of changes in consumer attitudes or shifts in your market.
- You’re the sales director of a mid-sized firm and realize you’re getting feedback from your existing customers (and companies that won’t return your phone calls), that your offerings may no longer match the marketplace.
- You’re a smart programmer with a tremendous knowledge of the Web but haven’t hit on your Killer App yet.
- You’re a small business in any sized town or market anyplace in the world and realize you have to compete globally—no matter how big or small you’re perceived to be.
- You’re a small office/home office (SOHO) one-person operation and need to separate yourself from every other SOHO vendor.
- You’re in a service-related business and want to find the new feature or offering that will make your service invaluable to current and future customers.
In short, no matter who you are or what business you’re in, you’re going to have to start thinking about new products and services.
When you read the topic headings of the seven-and-a-half steps, you’ll say to yourself, “That’s all I have to do?” And when you read the detailed description of each step you’ll groan to yourself, “I have to do all that?” It ain’t easy, but it’s doable. There are no shortcuts. You’re going to have to get your organization in alignment and you’re going to have to overcome a lot of inertia and resistance. Some of the inertia will be yours, the rest of the resistance will be systemic: a lot of people around you will resist your efforts to follow your lead and follow these steps. But if you succeed, the rewards can be huge. Especially in the area of personal satisfaction…not to mention the staggering financial return. So actually, there is a shortcut. This book is dedicated to it. Get the steps right and you’ll save invaluable amounts of time, energy and money in bringing your Big Idea to the marketplace.
Give it a go. Take on the challenge of bringing your Big Ideas for your products and services to life. If you succeed, we’ll know about it—because we’ll be reading about your huge accomplishment. And as you bask in the light of your brilliant victory, please think of us and give a shout out to this book.
Thank you to Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance for their permission to share this excerpt with aef.com users. For more details about ordering the book, click here.
Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance
Copyright © 2010 AMACOM Books. All rights reserved.