Has it ever felt like if you could get one genius idea, just one, it would revolutionize your business and skyrocket profits? Like the secret to success is right around the corner, so close, and all you have to do is find it?
Everyone is looking for a genius idea. Unknown guitar players want a single big hit that puts them on the map. Scientists want a discovery that will catapult their names into history.
The “genius idea” seems so close. All it takes — it would seem — is a light bulb moment when standing in line for coffee. But that idea is elusive. Most guitar players are never discovered by a record label. Most scientists are not famous. And many companies, even ones that are led by extremely intelligent people, do go out of business.
Perhaps those genius ideas don’t exist. There are very few silver bullets in life — far and wide, success comes to those who work hard for it. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, popularized the idea that anyone considered a world-class expert in something (like the violin, computer programming, baseball) has put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. Or, to quote an oft-heard proverb of Thomas Edison’s, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Which is actually really great. Because it means that if you put the work into it, success is attainable. You don’t need to wait around for some vague “genius” idea that may or may not ever come. You can start pursuing business success right now.
It isn’t easy. In a world that transforms and changes faster than ever before, companies are challenged to adapt to shifting markets faster than they have ever needed to. So if you want a company that is innovative — trailblazing instead of lagging behind — you will need to dedicate some time to innovative creativity.
Arthur Fry, the inventor of the Post-It note, worked for a company called 3M. The company attracted engineering talent by offering a perk: 15 percent of work time could be spent on a passion project. That is, employees could choose how to use 15 percent of their time at the office, working on a project they were truly excited about, provided it was beneficial to the company. The Post-It note was invented then.
Later, Google popularized this idea and allowed 20 percent of time to be used as an individual wanted (though they later stopped this program). Google Maps and Gmail were invented as a result of the program, created not as an assignment from the top down but as a project someone chose to do.
You probably won’t be able to give your employees one day out of the work week to pursue a passion project. But the principle remains the same. Your calendar will reflect your ideals, so if you truly desire to have a creative, innovative, problem-solving company, then make intentional time to foster creative ideas. You may not get a genius idea that throws your company into the history books, but you will get a lot of really, really good ideas that will grow your company, make it a more enjoyable place to work, and make running it a bit more fun.
Here are two ways to cultivate ideas:
Creative time: Step away from your email, turn off your cell phone, and go on a walk. Decide to spend that time brainstorming new ways to grow your business (new marketing campaigns, places and techniques to recruit local talent, team-building activities, etc.).
Creative team: You can spark ideas, and so can your team. Get to know them. Maybe one technician really likes writing music and recording. They might enjoy starting a podcast for your company. Or another might have a side hobby of graphic design. They could make better marketing materials. Both of those employees will feel recognized and know your company as a place where they can meld their work with their personal hobbies.
A genius idea might not come. But a good idea? You can certainly get that.
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