Spend 5 minutes and do this every time you have a new idea for your business to master your ideation.
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF AN IDEA?
The short answer is nothing. All on their own ideas are a dime a dozen despite the fact that yours is the next “million dollar idea”.
Why? They feel like they are very valuable, important, world changing even. But an idea in your head is meaningless to your business because it isn’t coupled with a much more important word…implementation.
Implementation builds buildings, sells books, and sends people to the moon. An implementation is something you can sell, something your team can use every day to make their lives better, something you can retire on.
So how do you translate an idea into collateral that can be implemented?
AUDIENCE FIRST, EVERY TIME
I can’t escape the singular truth that starting with your audience (READ: users, team, who ever is the recipient of your creation) is a better, more equitable way to run a business. Now, I’m not saying “audience only.” Start with your audience and solve how to bring value to them by meeting a business objective of your own.
Ideas simply just aren’t audience first (I mean, the first letter in the word is “I” after all). Ideas are collateral for your head, not for your audience. Let’s mix up the letters in I-D-E-A-S and see if we can make something better…
THE 5 MINUTE PROCESS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR BUSINESS
For a tree to grow, you have to plant a seed. For an implementation to grow an IDEAS on their own aren’t enough to get started.
This is one of my favorite tools when I feel like my clients are getting stuck on a tactic. This plays really well into Simon Sineks “Why” concept and shakes up the process of creation because it refocuses everyone away from trying to find a “solve” and instead figuring out a “reason” for why the idea creates audience value by meeting a business objective.
Ditch the “I” and reorder the letters: S – E – A – D. Write those four letters out on a whiteboard vertically (you know a meeting didn’t happen if there isn’t a whiteboard, right?).
S = Stakeholders
Who is the ultimate decision maker(s) for the future implementation? Who oversees the part of the business that “owns” the territory you’re trying to play in? If it’s you, great, just write your name. Most of the time, though, your idea will need some consensus between different team members. Remember that everything you are developing is going to need to be approved by those stakeholders.
This is super helpful when you get into the tactics required for implementation because if you know Dave from accounting is never going to approve your idea that includes a new way of taking payments until next year when you upgrade. I know, Dave is a real stick in the mud, but he is going to a part of your implementation and you need to come up with solutions that work for Dave the stakeholder if you ever want to get your concept off the ground.
Note, if you are working on a SEAD for a client, this is vital because the client stakeholder may not be your direct contact with the company.
Answer Example: S = Dave, Traci, and Amir.
E = Expressible Objective
Objectives are necessary but inherently unrestrained. An objective can become an encyclopedia, including your vision statement, mission statement, grocery list, a complete list of the 50 state capitals, and on and on. What you need is an Expressible Objective, something you can say in less than two sentences. This is the business objective for the particular audience you will be defining in the next step.
Write it out on the board and workshop it a bit. This will probably be two of the five minutes it takes to create your SEAD.
Ironically, this is often skipped when pitching an idea, a casualty of the war of tactics. We want to make a video, we want to build a website, we want to start a podcast. Finding your Expressible Objective is a way that you can find Sinek’s “why” for your idea.
Knowing your Expressible Objective will fundamentally change the outcome of what you are creating. Take the example of a podcast. A lot of people fell in love with Serial and now they want to start a podcast for their business. I loved Serial, too, but if you can’t attribute an Expressible Objective to an audience you will never understand what a valuable podcast for you business should sound like. After you create your SEAD, you may realize that what you are trying to accomplish for your audience would actually be better done through an email newsletter that you put out monthly. Podcasts, Newsletters, New Payment Software, they are all tactics. You’ll need to solve your tactical implementation but you shouldn’t solve it first. Start with a SEAD and you’ll arrive at better outcomes.
Answer Example: E = We need to communicate a new product line we have entering the market in the fall.
A = Audience of Individuals
I wish I had found an acrostic that started with A (since Audience First is my jam) so if you want to skip down to this letter when doing your SEAD I won’t judge you. Determining your Audience of Individuals is vital because the thing you are trying to implement needs someone to receive it.
This might be a new business process where your audience is the sales team, or it might be a new product line where your audience is your clients. At some point you need to solve who you are making “the thing” for, and I’m saying that point needs to be first. Not understanding your audience is not understanding yourself.
Why Audience of Individuals and not just Audience? You have to remember that you aren’t talking to a demographic. Each person receiving what you are creating lives with one brain between two ears and two eyes. Treat them like that. Assume their experience with your idea is going to be personal, even if it’s in a social setting or communal basis.
Answer Example: A = Existing clients who have made purchases from us in the last two years.
D = Delivery Date
If you ordered a pizza and the person on the other end of the phone was like, “It will get there when it gets there,” you’d probably tell them to cancel the order and go get sushi instead. Why do we do this with our business? Be a grown up, be reasonable and conservative, make up a date, and then stick to it. Blowing a deadline is better than not having one.
BTW, if your stakeholder is your boss and you walk in not only coming up with a revolutionary solution that will change your company but you also tell them the date they will have this game changer in their hands expect all of the high fives you can possibly take. Delivery Dates are your secret weapon in getting approval to move forward.
Answer Example: D = March 1st.
Stop doing one of two things: rushing right into developing your tactical implementation or wasting days and weeks and months and eons on journey mapping. Journey Mapping is great but it takes a looong time. Figure out your maps abstractly from your idea when you have the luxury of time to get it done right.
SEADs take 5 minutes to make and should be the first 5 minutes of your meeting. Feel free to change any of the answers as you discover more information through your development process. Remember changing is not eliminating the need for those answers, you’ll still be able to walk away with a concise point of origin for your future implementation.
Ideas aren’t bad. They are the spark that ignites every great thing we humans have ever made. But ideas aren’t currency between two people. They are made for your brain, not for the people to whom you are explaining them. SEADs are collateral. They are communicable because they aren’t designed for you. SEADs are made for the people who will be receiving them, and ultimately the ones in charge of growing them into powerful objective-meeting implementations.
Now go grow.