People love to make things more complicated than they really are. When it comes to business, there is an army of people who would have you believe the best ideas are a proverbial Holy Grail, only to be discovered by the most persistent and fortunate.
While hard work and ongoing effort is important, you'll never find the treasure you're after if you aren't looking the right place. For one multimillionaire, the journey towards the next great idea starts with one simple technique.
Riggs Kubiak is the founder and CEO of Honest Buildings, a cloud-based project management platform built for real estate owners. Kubiak's platform ensures that capital and construction projects stay on time and on budget. To say the project has been a success would be an overwhelming understatement.
In 2017, Honest Buildings powered a 500 percent year-over-year increase in project volume and facilitated $10 billion in projects managed over the last 24 months. The company is on track to facilitating more than $10 billion additional in marketplace transactions managed on the platform in 2018 and just last week announced new investments that would expand its Series B round to $25 million. Many of Kubiak's clients have become investors as well, demonstrating their immense faith in the product.
So, what does Kubiak credit his multitude of successes on? One simple technique keeps his team on track.
For every new idea, ask "why?"
"Ask 'why?'" Kubiak said. "Why is one of the best questions of all time. It forces individuals and teams to rethink the way they have been doing things and if you continue to ask the question it will force you and your organization to constantly learn. It also creates tension as it can be perceived as a challenge to some, especially within larger top down organizations who have created a hierarchical structure."
That tension is essential to moving organizations forward. People tend to fall into habitual patterns or groupthink mentalities. Larger, legacy organizations are especially prone to succumbing to tradition. But just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn't mean it's being done the best way. And even if those behaviors made sense in the past, they might no longer work. Constantly asking "why" forces a reexamination of the logic underpinning certain actions.
Asking this one simple question in every facet of a business's operations is guaranteed to lead to new insights and fresh perspectives. With a new set of eyes, organizations are able to find new solutions that they didn't see before. Maybe no one in the entire industry has seen these solutions before! Through aggressively asking "why" at every turn, businesses are more likely to find their Holy Grail.
"Real value comes from solving real problems in elegant ways," Kubiak said. "The solving problems part is straightforward: entrepreneurs leverage their own experience with a problem or issue and find a better way to solve it. The elegant part is what differentiates the solution from the inevitable competitors who also believe to have solved the same problem."
Quantify the projected value of new ideas.
Then the hard part starts. Once an innovative and elegant solution has been found, when real value is palpable, businesses must force themselves to quantify that value. It's not enough to simply say "this is a new idea and probably a good one, let's follow through on it." Instead, it's time to put pen to paper. How much more quickly does your solution accomplish a task than the conventional methods? How much less does your product cost without sacrificing quality?
"[Actual value means] you can truly quantify the value of the product or service in a before and after way," Kubiak said. "If it took me four hours before I used this, and one hour after, that's a 75 percent time savings. If it cost $10 each time I did something before the product, and I can do it for $6 each time afterwards, that's a 40 percent savings each time."
It might seem difficult to pump the brakes when you think you've got the next best idea, but it's important to confirm your suspicions with facts. Quantify your ideas with hard numbers, do the math, and you'll understand just how much your Holy Grail is worth.
Kubiak applied his rationale of rigorously questioning every idea, new and old, to his own business and it lead to booming success. However, this principle is universal and can be extended to every industry. Teasing out ideas and separating the good from the bad, then quantifying the good to find the very best will lead you to success every time. When looking for ways to innovate in your business, just remember that every day there are hundreds of opportunities to ask "why?"