What's so big about big ideas?

It is useful now and then to engage in exercises like the one ASAE & the Center’s Acronym blog has prompted: to explore the possibilities of ideas that we deem big. It stimulates our creative thinking, it forces us to consider new possibilities, it causes us to question our assumptions.

But, just what is a big idea? Big to whom? Big by what criteria? Big could reference:
  • How large the impact of the idea might be for members or customers
  • The amount of resources that would be required to produce the idea
  • How much the idea would deviate from the way things are currently being done
  • The required stretch it would take for the idea to become a reality
  • The wow factor or shock value … how people would react upon hearing the idea
  • The degree of change people would see your idea requiring
  • The number of people the idea could benefit

And for any of these references, big is in the eyes of the beholder, right? While I don’t find some of the ideas being discussed particularly big, they might be a significant change for you or your organization. What might be new for your company is already standard operating practice at another. Something you see as very doable could appear as risky and uncertain to someone else. An idea compelling to many can be crippling for some. So we have to be careful about labeling ideas as big and what we expect to happen when we do.

Engaging in an exercise that generates and discusses big ideas is worthwhile. But ultimately we need to develop the organizational culture, attract the talent and knowledge, and turbo-charge our daily processes and systems to enable big thinking and big execution on a routine basis. Contemplating possibilities difficult to imagine and unprecedented impact and value should be woven into the fabric of how we do our work. Strike that. It is our work.

So while we continue this month to explore big ideas, let’s spend the new year building organizations where routinely imagining and achieving them (big ideas) is no longer seen as one of them.