The 5 Stages of a Breakthrough Idea
How do we know it will work?
This question always brings a smile to my face. When my coaching clients discover a critical breakthrough idea in their business, their initial reaction includes a lot of excitement and hope. Then the doubt and fear set in. But breakthrough thinking isn't born of doubt and fear, it's born of the ability to let go, remove limits, suspend judgment, and believe in your unique vision.
So the answer is, you never know if it will work. But if you allow the cycle to happen without sabotaging it with doubt and fear, your idea can stand a chance.
When JoAnne took her product to market she was thrilled when a major retail chain picked it up. And it did well. But when she came into coaching JoAnne quickly realized what a fragile position she and her company were in. With 100 percent of her earnings generated by one retailer, JoAnne's company was only one step away from disaster. So we went to work, exploring all of the possibilities and opportunities that may lie ahead for her company. Getting her product placed with other retailers helped, but JoAnne quickly learned that it would take more to secure her brand in the marketplace.
That's when we thought of co-branding. What if she approached popular brands that distribute a compatible product and package JoAnne's product right along with it? This could put her company on a whole new playing field. And you know what? It worked--eventually.
But JoAnne and her breakthrough had to go through the cycle of patience, endurance, and persistence. If you're aware of the highs and lows before taking the plunge you'll be more likely to follow it through right to the end. So here you go. These are the five stages I've witnessed as entrepreneurs allow their breakthrough ideas to evolve, taking them to the next stage in life and business.
Some entrepreneurs spend years searching for the solution to their stagnant sales. For some, these ideas and solutions eventually appear. And when they do, the thrill of discovery elicits the hope and anticipation of soaring profits, financial relief, and the taste of success. Enjoy this phase because these feelings feed your energy and passion, both necessary components of success. If you move from the elation phase directly to the doubt and fear phase your idea is doomed and you will remain in the search phase forever.
How many ideas have you negated because you're certain they won't work, yet you fail to thoroughly explore their viability before dismissing them entirely? Sometimes your initial idea isn't the one that pans out, but by committing to your research and further exploration it's possible that it will morph into something that does work. Don't give up before you give it a fair shot. Make sure that you have proof (in the numbers, the market, or whatever presents itself) that the idea is not viable.
Doubt and Fear
The entrepreneurs who do allow their breakthrough ideas to develop often get cold feet as things begin to fall into place. At some point they must make an emotional and financial commitment to change--and that's scary. So they begin to talk themselves out of the commitment; usually by believing that they are too busy, too broke, or too (fill in the blank) to pursue the next steps. This is where you need support. Mentors, coaches, and peers are critical at this stage. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and break through the fear by taking one small step at a time.
We tend to form expectations and beliefs around how things should unfold and what they should look like. As you develop your idea and reach out to manufactures, prospects, or your audience to take it to the next level you are likely to experience some disappointments. This can feel like a failure point, but if you remove the blinders and open your mind to the possibilities your idea can evolve and flourish. JoAnne was rejected by several brands when she began her initiative, but what she learned in those discussions was invaluable. She went back to the drawing board and in less than a year her product lined the shelves of hundreds of retailers, bundled with a major brand's product. Failure is failure only if you give up.
It may look nothing like the idea you set out to develop but your persistence and flexibility has finally paid off. Don't see this as the end, but the beginning of the next level of growth. Not all breakthrough ideas mean skyrocketing profits, so don't gauge your success entirely by the dollar. What have you learned? Who have you met? Who have you become in the process? A true entrepreneur will always head back to the drawing board to develop the next big thing, but make sure to do a post mortem on the entire life cycle of this breakthrough first. You'll gain knowledge and awareness that will assist you through this cycle time and time again.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.