5 Questions to ask before pursuing a Big Idea
By Mathew Love
Have you heard about the next gold rush?
It doesn’t involve any new minerals or precious stones. It’s not a new form of energy or a newly discovered part of the earth with beautiful beach-front real estate.
No, the race for riches now involves a dedicated focus on encouraging, fostering and then commercializing big ideas. Just about every city in the world and every corporation is getting in on the action by trying to attract big thinkers, risk-takers, innovators and creatives, hoping that pursuing a big idea that succeeds on their own turf will be worth all the gold.
But the dirty secret is that “big ideas” can come from anywhere and anyone.
Yes, there are some different types of big ideas that involve rocket science, battery technology and super sophisticated financial technologies, but sometimes they come in the form of a radically new way to do something old. Like filing expenses (Expensify), ordering books (amazon), connecting with friends (facebook), or any of the hundreds of activities that you’re likely involved with every day. This means that you don’t have to wear a turtleneck and drive a tesla to see a new way of doing things or come up with a small twist that makes a big impact.
You may think that coming up with a Big Idea is the hard part, and while this may be a great start that sets you off on the path to success—it’s only about 20 percent of the work needed.
The other 80 percent? That’s just effort, a little foresight and some will to see it through.
It’s about nurturing that Big Idea and making sure that it grows up to become the problem solver you’d hoped for. It’s about asking questions and getting the appropriate feedback needed to guide this Big Idea towards its realization and a purposeful outcome.
With that in mind, we’ve put together 5 key questions to ask of your next Big Idea—ensuring that it doesn’t falter on its path to success and fruition.
1: What problem will this idea solve?
The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland is famous for the saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” And this holds true for your Big Idea as well. If you don’t nail down the exact problem you’re trying to solve by producing and working on this idea, then you may as well take any route or use any old method possible to get there. The issue here is that you end up wasting time going through a laborious trial and error process—whereas nailing down a specific problem you want to solve gives you a clear indication of what you need to do to solve it.
2: Who will this Big Idea affect?
Have you ever bought a gift for someone you don’t really know, and kind of knew that it will probably be placed in the top of a cupboard never to be seen again? The same thing happens when you develop or work on this Big Idea without really understanding the market you’re hoping it will affect. Take some time to research who the Big Idea will affect and try to gather an understanding of what they’re all about. That will keep the idea out of the closet and put it into the top pocket!
A sample exercise would be to describe in your own words, 3 potential audiences or people that could benefit from your big idea.
3: How do we know when we have solved the problem?
How will you know whether your Big Idea is a success or not? What impact were you hoping to have made?
This is where it gets a little tricky because it depends completely on the nature of your idea.
However, no matter what you’re hoping to achieve with your idea, there will be a way to determine how it works out. This could be through surveys, post-release research, or even simple observation. It would even be good to set up some benchmarks along the way to know if you’re on track or wavering, so try this:
What impact would you like to make with your big idea within 12 months? Keep in conservative and realistic.
What impact would you like to make after 5 years? Be aggressive with your goals here, and don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars, but keep it measurable.
What impact would you like to make after 2 years? This is your benchmarking point to see if you’re on track but also will force you to think about how this would lead to your 5-year plan.
This sets you up for the all-important question coming up; what’s next?
4: What are the resources I need to make it happen?
This is another really important aspect of planting your Big Idea seed and ensuring it grows into a gigantic tree of success. You have to know what you will need to get it to where you want to be. For example; how much money will you need? Will you need a team of people to help work on it? How many hours will it take to solve?
It’s ok to dream a little and not worry about where the resources will come from, but it is important to make sure that you can at least describe what it would take to get your big idea off the ground, otherwise you may be shooting yourself in the foot before a 100-mile race.
5. What next?
No matter whether your Big Idea has been a success or not, there will be a time when a follow up is necessary. What is the next plan of action to either improve the idea or project or simply expand it and grow it further? Here’s where a little-educated creativity comes into play. You’ll use a combination of all the information you already have about your idea, plus the new information you gather after you’ve implemented it and create a plan of what’s next to keep it fresh and innovative.
Let’s face it, we all want our Big Ideas to succeed and make it in the ever-competitive marketplace. However, not many people adopt the necessary feedback initiatives and questioning processes required to make this happen. Make sure that you’re equipped for the optimum realization of your next Big Idea with a solid foundation built on information and knowledge gained from asking the right questions.