06/24/2015 10:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

"Why Didn't I Think of That?!": The Reality of Big Ideas


How many times have you said to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?" We constantly hear about amazing ideas changing the lives around us. Some ideas are "half-baked," never to see the light of day; others are brewing with promise, waiting to be born into reality.

Yet, having an idea and executing an idea are two extraordinarily different things. For every great idea that comes to fruition, a dozen more lie crumpled on the drawing room floor or shot down around the conference table. Sometimes a great idea is dismantled and the parts are reassembled later on--redressed or resurrected at another time. And sometimes, great ideas whither unspoken--victims of self-censorship or a negative "that's impossible" mentality.

I pitch ideas for a living; so I have seen the distinct line that separates "great ideas" from "great ideas that actually happen."

They have a great messenger. The ability to contextualize an idea and inspire the imagination of others is key. Over the years, I've seen many a great idea get stuck in the mud because the leadership couldn't rally the support or resources. Sometimes it really is about the sizzle and not just the steak.

They invite ownership from others. People support something in which they can invest. Great ideas should inspire personal connection and welcome feedback. Like a kid's collection of Legos, the structure of a great idea is flexible enough to be reconfigured or rebuilt while also rooted in a strong foundation.

They inspire vision. People want to rally behind a passionate vision with the potential to change the game for good. Nothing is quite as tantalizing as the possibility of contributing to an idea that might have an impact greater than a one-time purpose.

They know failure is a real possibility. Great ideas can't be truly great if they don't acknowledge the risk of failure. While you can do your best to minimize risks, accepting and communicating the cold, hard truth up front is the way to get buy in, reduce road bumps late on, and build the necessary momentum. Consider it "expectations management" for all involved. Ideas at first glance are always the shiny new object; but we all know the shine fades.

They're grounded in strategy but push the boundaries of the comfortable. "I'm not sure that's possible" is typically a sign that innovation may be just around the corner. Bold ideas push people outside of their comfort zone--not a place most people like to dwell. Developing and sharing a clear strategy is a good place to begin building support. I truly think anyone can become an "anything is possible" believer if a confident, well-designed roadmap is in place.

What's your take on how and why some great ideas see the light of day while others simply can't past the starting line? Sound off.