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Good Idea, Now What? An Interview with Charles Lee

By Ken Wytsma

Charles Lee is the Founder & CEO at Ideation, an idea-making company that specializes in helping brands scale their businesses by effectively integrating their strategic plans into day-to-day implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading brands on topics such as fostering creativity, disruptive innovation, idea-making, and brand strategy. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation.

KW: What do you think is the biggest challenge people face in making inspiration a reality?

CL: In the realm of ideas, there’s no shortage of passion, but passion without an actionable plan will eventually end up in the grave, sometimes literally. Far too many ideas experience premature death because they lack intentional strategy, a sustainable and scalable process, and a viable network. Idea execution requires an organized process.

Think about it. What great idea of yours still lies untouched in a half-written Google doc? Of all the good ideas that have come out of one of your staff or committee meetings, how many have any seen the light of the day? The biggest problem is that people think an idea is enough, or don’t have a process to work through from idea to execution.

KW: What is a misconception you often encounter when you work with people on their ideas? 

CL: A new idea is often inspiring, life-giving and full of hope but idea-making requires a high level of intentional planning, strategy and hard work. Unfortunately, too many creative leaders have given themselves a false sense of permission not to organize, all in the name of artistry and creativity. But the reality is that most creative people who live out their dreams have actualized their passion through intentional planning and hard work. Creativity requires organization. As Thomas Edison famously quipped, “one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” A lack of organizational “gifting”

should never be an excuse for a lack of implementation. Bottom line: There are no magical shortcuts from idea to implementation.

KW: What are some things to consider when developing a creative process?

CL: Some key elements to think through include:

  • Business Plan / A business plan is essential for any endeavor because it provides direction to any vision or passion. Even if you’re starting a ministry, you need a business plan to help determine if this idea is desirable, feasible, and viable.
  • Sustainability / Does your plan have fiscal and human resource capacity? In other words, how will you fund or resource your endeavor? From where will you pull the fiscal and human capital? Does your church have concrete commitments from some to help support it? Will people actually invest in it and why?
  • Scalability / How much growth potential is realistic in the next one to three years? Can you identify those growth indicators? Will you and your team (if you have one) sacrificially commit to the plan for the next three years to implement the concepts?
  • Simplicity and Uniqueness / Is your message simple enough to grasp and communicate to potential partners and supporters? Will people get the unique message of your passion, or will you drown as white noise? How will you make it accessible enough that people can easily get involved. Remember, it’s not difficult to get your message out there, but it’s incredibly difficult to get people to care.
  • Longevity / Thinking long-term also provides a broader perspective of what it is you hope to develop, which can minimize unnecessary, short-term frustrations.
  • Investment / Too many idea makers get sidetracked by “costs.” Instead, think of your costs as investments. It’s unrealistic to eliminate money from the equation. Get advice on how to maximize a limited budget.

KW: What role does collaboration play in the process?

CL: Executing ideas well often requires us to collaborate with others. As romantic as it sounds, however, it takes a whole lot of intentional, proactive effort to do it well. it doesn’t just happen, it’s not always intuitive. The beauty of collaboration is that it allows us to focus time and energy on our strengths while learning more upon the specialty of others in their respective fields of expertise. Develop collaborative practices that document, refine, and keep the idea moving forward.

KW: What encouragement can you give to people starting out on this journey or struggling in the middle?

CL: Please keep in mind that the idea you start with will rarely be the idea you end up producing. In other words, agile iteration will continue to be a reality in any idea-maker’s life. It’s going to take work to really uncover what your real idea is under all of the distractions and hype. Remember, dream big, start small, and keep moving.

KW: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

CL: If you’ve got a good idea but know you don’t have a strategic process, I hope this book helps you develop a practical skill set. Or, if you’re a more experienced idea maker, I hope this book will be a good resource for sparking meaningful conversations about your approach to idea-making and how you might make it even better.

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Categories: Innovation & Leadership

Ken Wytsma is a teacher, entrepreneur and author. He is the founder of The Justice Conference and president of Kilns College, as well as the author of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things, The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith, and Create vs. Copy:Embrace Change. Ignite Creativity. Break Through with Imagination.

Theology and Culture