What makes Woody’s character in ToyStory so indispensible to the rest of the Toy gang? No, it’s not his culture cutting fashion sense or his stand up comedian one liners, even his gangly bendy legs that could probably win some Guinness record if there were such a thing in Disney land.
Give in? He’s the leader and he is the leader because he is the ideas man. He’s the glue that brings together the team. He’s constantly looking for ways around challenges, smart solutions, using the full resources of his team and doing it quickly and smartly. Lets face it, Buzz Lightyear is a close second, but he makes a better wing man than he does a leader because his ideas are never quite grounded in reality.
ToyStory would never and could never exist without Woody. Can you imagine Mr and Mrs Potato head leading the gang through trouble and strife? What about Slinky Dog? Woody always has a clear idea of the problem, a sensible vision for success and he’s thirsty to succeed. He’s an ideas man, a fix it hero, a problem solver and as such he’s indispensable to the team.
Are you ready and capable of making yourself indispensable?
Ok, so maybe Woody and ToyStory isn’t quite real life (Shh don’t tell Walt Disney), but take a look at the following list and see if you can work out what they all have in common?
- The iPad
- On Demand TV
They are all great ideas and ideas come from people. The iPad – created from Steve Jobs’ vision, famous forever for revolutionizing the way we interact with technology. Dyson, a simple yet fundamental twist on a boring household item, created by James Dyson (they even named it after him!). Facebook (well I think we all know that story). All these people will live on in history for doing something unique, taking the boring and making it exciting, turning something mundane on it’s head and asking ‘what if”? Their ideas have changed lives, sent companies cartwheeling onto the stock exchanges and made people famous (and rich of course).
But here’s the great thing about ideas…. It doesn’t have to be about invention or products. It can be a concept, a vision, a slogan, an approach, a different way of thinking.
So how do you go about creating great ideas and getting them heard?
The problem most people have with ‘idea’s showers’ (yes, that is what some people call brainstorming these days) is that people constrict their thinking to a box.
They focus on the problem. ‘We can’t get the paper aeroplane to fly’, ‘the photocopier is stuck’, ‘the car won’t start’, ‘nobody liked our presentation on the new vision’. What happens when you focus on the problem? Not only do you start to focus on the negative, you restrict your thinking to a small box. You constrain it. You suffocate it. You kill it! Our brains are pretty clever things and neuro-linguistically (the words we choose and how we frame the information we take in from outside and then process it) has a significant impact on our ability to be brilliant. Now I’m not saying that identifying a problem isn’t important, of course it is, it’s stage one of identifying an opportunity. And that’s the key, it’s an opportunity not a problem. Lesson number one, “always frame the challenge positively”.
Here’s an example. Instead of ‘we can’t get the paper aeroplane to fly’ what about ‘what options do we have to make the plane fly?’ or asking ‘why do we want the plane to fly? What are we trying to achieve’? Here’s another one. Instead of ‘The car won’t start’ which could turn into hours and hours of testing, checking, manipulating, even calling a mechanic out and still no joy. Ask yourself, ‘why do we need the car to start?’. And there’s lesson number two – “always ask questions”. Being an inquisitive nosey sod is brilliant, from inquisition comes brilliance. Never be afraid to ask questions. Back to our example of the car. The answer to our question may be a simple ‘we need to get from A to B’. Suddenly the ideas are less about fixing the car and more about getting from A to B. Lesson number three – “clarify the big picture”. If you focus on the little picture, you’ll create little ideas. Focus on the big picture? Yep you guessed it, you’ll create big ideas. Nobody stands out for creating little ideas (ok maybe your Gran will love you for it).
Final lesson on creating ideas? “THINK BIG!” It’s always useful to look at other industries and see what you can learn from them. If someone has a great idea, steal it. That’s what great ideas are there for, to make more great ideas. James Dyson looked at other cleaning products and realized that people who clean like to see that they’ve cleaned. So what did he do? He made sure his Dyson vacuum cylinder was see through so that cleaners could see just how much dirt the Dyson picked up. The result? A perception by cleaners that Dyson products were better than competitors.
There is one final thing that you should never forget with any idea process and it’s critical to success. The customer. Always ask yourself the following question “if I was a customer, how would this affect me?” if you can’t answer that question positively, you need to go back to stage two and ask yourself the following question, “how do we want this to positively impact our customers?”
So now you have your fabulous ideas you can sit back and put your feet up? Wrong. Here is the most important part. Getting your ideas heard by the people that need to hear them. Another four key lessons? Actually no, this one is simple, it’s the same four principles as creating ideas, just pitched slightly different. Once you’ve found the right person and got their undivided attention follow these simple four steps;
- Frame the challenge positively (shows that you’re a go getter)
- Summarise the key questions you asked in the process (demonstrates you have an inquisitive mind and you’re not a yes person)
- Clarify how this fits into the bigger picture (demonstrates you understand strategy and are aligned to where the business wants to go)
- Dazzle with your great ideas. ‘Your individuality is the most valuable thing you have’ Martha Beck (Inspirational Writer and Coach)