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  Q1 2007 - Volume 1, Issue:123
  Idea to Enterprise: A Reality Check

"An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements", according to adman James Webb Young. Ordinary people get good ideas everyday. Then why are examples of Steve Jobs (Apple) and Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google) far and few? Why do very few ideas materialize even though we are surrounded by obvious ideas? Reason: Only a few people connect the dots in a manner that then appears simple or obvious to others. Most don't realize that great ideas are only good ideas executed well.

Qualification of a "good" idea

  • Innovation = Idea + Execution + Value creation. Any good idea can be applauded as innovation only when all the above elements are met.
  • It should offer a competitive advantage in the minds of the customer, satisfy an existing need or create additional customer benefits.
  • Should become a profitable venture.

Ideation Process

Ideas don't have to just pop out. While there are specific techniques like De Bono's Six Thinking Hats, here's a broad outline of the ideation process:

Step 1 : Use your experience and environment to think of unsolved problems. The best ideas are from problems that are personal to you.

Step 2 : Test and validate your idea through a guided approach. Be open to feedback and reworking your assumptions.

Step 3 : Is your idea a revolutionary idea or an evolutionary idea. Be honest with yourself on your convictions about your ideas and your commitment to it.

Step 4 : Develop a working model to bring clarity to the idea and feasibility

Step 5 : Be realistic in evaluating what it takes to make the idea viable as a profitable enterprise.

Why do some ideas never make it?

Coming up with the killer idea is only one small part of the battle. Here are areas where entrepreneurs lose focus:

  • Lack of conviction : Most potent ideas fail due to lack of perseverance and confidence of the entrepreneur. True innovators refuse to abandon their ideas despite odds. Start small on the idea, but think big about its future.
  • Multiple focus : Sometimes innovators lose the much-needed focus, juggling between multiple business ideas. A single-minded passion to execute the idea before exploring the next business plan is essential.
  • Faulty Execution : Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. But most focus on the 1%: the front-end of the innovation process that deals with creativity. And not on the not-so-glamorous back-end execution strategy.
  • Lack of time to succeed : Sufficient time is not given for the idea to mature and for adoption curve to the new product.

Idea to Enterprise

The innovation process has to be managed carefully as a set of processes, including idea development, idea screening and concept development and testing, business analysis, prototype development and testing, test marketing and commercialization. Here's a step-by-step "idea to enterprise" approach:

  • Screening the idea : Check the uniqueness of the idea, validate the business model and test the commercial viability with folks who have "been there, done that" and through market research.
  • Protecting your idea : Understand aspects such as what's patentable; protection offered; costs and the patent processes.
  • Prototype development : Develop a prototype to interest partners, investors, prospective customers and elicit their feedback and support.
  • Building a team : It is essential to rally a great team and convince them about the power of the idea. Be willing to hire other leaders and share the spotlight.
  • Flexibility : Investors look at flexibility in the business model to effectively handle challenges, learn quickly from mistakes and effect course correction.
  • Power Evangelists : Early adopters of the product become evangelists and brand managers. This initial core group needs to be strongly identified and nurtured to create the tipping point.

There's no magic formula to incubate an idea. A well-thought out plan, execution excellence, market timing, personal leadership are drivers of the growth trajectory.

- Vani Kola

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