We've all heard the notion that a single great idea has the capacity to change the world. But in truth, ideas don't manifest change. People do, specifically people who can elevate those ideas by clearly articulating how they can be put into practice in the real world. This "elevated idea" is just a fancy way to define an offer, and ultimately every idea must undergo a basic evolution to succeed: from Aspiration to Concept to Offer. The key is to never stop asking yourself "how."
"I want to launch a small business. I want to help the needy. I want to go to the moon."
Great! Good for you! You have goals and aspirations -- welcome to the club. It is easy to dream big, and even easier to talk big, and this is because nobody can disagree with you on your aspirations. Who wouldn't support "helping the needy?" To give your idea a chance, you have to take a chance. Face rejection by being the first to reject -- reject the acceptance that comes with abstract statements that nobody can disagree with. Package your aspiration into something you can sell, and take the risk that people, when actually asked to exchange something of value, might say no.
But how do I go from Aspiration to Offering?
Great news! You've already mastered the process by simply asking how.
I want to help the needy.
By raising funds on their behalf.
By getting my friends to donate.
You can imagine how long this process might go on, but what you are doing is slowly transforming your abstract aspiration into a much more specific offering you can tangibly ask another person to exchange value for, whether that be their time, energy, or money.
The key is to come up with an offer (essentially a hypothetical way to achieve your goal) and then to test it in the market. It might not take hold, but at least you can act on that feedback. If you continue to run around with an idealistic aspiration in your head that everyone agrees with then it will only ever thrive there -- in your head. It is far better to risk it in the real world and gain the knowledge as to why your offering might not thrive so you can modify, asking yourself, "How else might I achieve this aspiration" with each subsequent rejection. With due diligence and constant refinement, you will eventually win over the market and land your idea. Now that's something to aspire to!
Real World Success
It may sound simple and formulaic, but this is the tried and true process to evolve any aspiration into results. Take, for instance, the story of Ben Rattray, named one of Time Magazine's World's 100 Most Influential People. Ben had an aspiration greater than changing anything specific -- he literally wanted to change the way we go about change. And how do you think he built the model to accomplish it?
He had an aspiration: To empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see. Through constantly asking how (changing the concept from a social network to blog platform to petition platform), he figured out that the best way to achieve that mission is by combining the values of a non-profit with the flexibility and innovation of a tech startup. He built an offer around this (and a compelling one at that with 25 million users to date), and eventually gave life to change.org.
If you are willing to take a chance on your idea then watch this video and I will not only walk you through how to grow an offer out of your aspiration, but additionally expose you to one of the most attractive mistakes we often make when turning our ideas into reality.
After you watch the video, I want you to do an exercise for me. On a piece of paper make three columns: title the first Aspiration, the second Concept, and the third Offer. Now take your idea (and any others you may have) and put them through the process described in the video.
At the bottom of the page, write down your most compelling OFFER.
From now on don't talk in terms of "ideas" but in terms of "offers."
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Peter Sheahan on the topic of Making It Happen in Small Business, focused on turning those with the ideas into those with the influence. To see all of the posts in the series, click here.