Entrepreneurs are full of ideas.
It’s what inspired us to start our business, create our products or services, and sell them to the world in the first place.
But, over time, we can start to think that the valuable part is the idea, and not the action that follows.
Business owners can get caught in “shiny object syndrome,” where every new idea, invention, tool, or technique grabs our attention for a few minutes, days, or weeks—and yet nothing ever really seems to get done.
Because an idea by itself isn’t actually valuable.
As Ted Levitt pointed out, “The fact that you can put a dozen inexperienced people into a room and conduct a brainstorming session that produces exciting new ideas shows how little relative importance ideas themselves actually have.”
Every person—every company—can produce great ideas. But only some people and some companies create great products, services, and marketing.
What separates successful companies from the unsuccessful is not the quality of their ideas but the quality of their decisions and actions.
To avoid “shiny object syndrome,” write your idea down before you do anything else. And keep all your ideas about new products and services, new marketing ideas, and new business models in a place you can easily access and update them.
Then, get clear on your priority stack: What do you want most of out life, your business, and the next few years? Sort your list of ideas based on their ability to get you closer to those priorities.
Take the ideas that are likely to help you and assess them based on whether pursuing them will reinforce or harm your business’s market position, and set aside the ones that are counter to your position.
Finally, rank the remaining ideas based on their probability of success and failure, their most likely outcomes, and what absolute disaster would look like.
You’ll be left with a very short list of ideas that will further your goals and help your business, ranked by their probability of success.
If you have a winning idea on your hands, clarify for yourself—and those supporting you in making it happen—what you want to achieve specifically, why you want to achieve it, and how you intend to go about it.
And then act.
But note that if you are truly on to something original or are absolutely off track, the response from others will be the same: confusion and hesitancy. As Hugh MacLeod said, “the more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.”
So you’ll need to act based on your own estimation of success, and based on your own ability to keep moving forward, make changes, and find solutions if your idea doesn’t pan out.
As Stacey Abrams wrote, “Over the years, in every facet of our lives, if we are willing to risk, we will lose.” So prepare for it and know ahead of time what you’ll do if it doesn’t work out.
If we’re full of ideas, but slow to act, we’re no better off with or without the ideas. If we get distracted by every new opportunity but fail to enact any completely, we’re no closer to getting what we want out of our business.
And if we tell everyone about all our new ideas, but never seem to have anything new to sell or produce, we might enjoy talking about ideas more than putting them into practice.
“Wishes feel good and rarely come true,” Abrams wrote. Because action is what matters.
We can’t wait for some external sign to move forward. We can never be fully certain of future success. Instead, we need to think clearly and act strategically, and move toward what we want—every single day.
“When you decide what you want and why you want it, take action immediately,” Abrams says.
“Do not wait for an invitation to act. I promise you, the letter is not in the mail. Know what you want. Know why you want it. Know how you will achieve it.
“Then get started.”