The real reason those great ideas don't work


We are not lacking in great ideas. 

In fact we ravenously pursue ideas looking for the best ones. Often we do this by dissecting the secrets from those at the top. We are desperate to know how does Richard Branson do it? What are Google up to now in driving team culture? What else can we learn from Kim Kardashian? (aside from the perfect ‘duck-face’ of course!). 

Business and leadership magazines and newspapers are filled with articles about the ‘Top 10 Tips on ______(fill-the-blank); I know because I’ve read most of them in the hope that all I have to do is uncover the elusive secret. 

If we can just simply find out their secrets then all we have to do is replicate those same actions and success is guaranteed....right? 

In this case we assume that the formula works like this: 

Great idea = New ritual*

(*confetti and rainbows) 

Rationally this makes sense, in reality it often plays out more like this: 

    •    Great idea 
    •    Tell everyone about our new ritual 
    •    Do it for a while 
    •    Get distracted (e.g holidays/sickness/the latest episode of 'The Bachelor'**) 
    •    Relax slightly 
    •    Relax a lot 
    •    What idea?   
    •    Back on the idea bandwagon (after coffee that is...) 

The formula is missing a few essential steps. In order to be able to turn great ideas into great actions take this formula for a spin:

Great idea + Experiment + Practice

= New Ritual


Scientists play, test, and uncover with experiments**. They manipulate the conditions and environment to see how it works best. The moment we see the great idea we’ve just heard or read as an experiment we start to play. 

Forget exactly replicating how someone else is working and adapt the conditions to suit your situation. Ask how could it work for me? 

So you have a team meeting once a week - why not make it a walking meeting? Or visit a different coffee shop each time? What about a breakfast catch-up once a month? What could you do instead if you got rid of the weekly meeting altogether? 

When we embrace a mindset of experimentation we become more fascinated in the process then stressing about the outcome. 

Experiments work best with clear parameters. Set yourself a time -  for the next 8 days - and then play with your new activity. 

Once you’ve manipulated the conditions and found something that seems to work for you then commit to practice. 

Stick with it for a longer period of time - say a 30 day goal. If you get distracted or relax on some crucial elements move back to the experiment phase to figure out what changes work for you. 

Then practice some more. 

Through a mindset of experimentation and a commitment to practice you’ll find yourself a new ritual that actually works for you, and just maybe it’s better than the original idea anyway. 

So let’s play - why not let me know what your 8-day experiment is going to be? (

Have fun!

Cheers, Alison 

** Seriously I haven't seen an episode but it seems that a few people have

*** This article from 99U has some great thoughts on ‘sparks’ and experiments. Click here to read