The Idea that Leads to the Idea

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You may be missing out on your next million-dollar idea — especially if you don't understand the principle behind "the idea that leads to the idea."

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hi there, Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™, and I'm, I'm afraid I've got bad news for you today.

You, you and your entire team might be missing out on amazing innovative ideas.

You might be missing out on the next million dollar idea if you don't understand the concept we're going to talk about today, and that is the "idea that leads to the idea." The idea that leads to the idea.

See, way too often we're really quick to dismiss what we think of as a bad idea without taking the time to really explore it. I'll give you an example.

I live here in the Pacific Northwest, and just north of me there's some, there's some pretty rugged areas of wilderness, and it gets pretty snowy and icy in the winter months. And they have they have telephone poles with power lines, phone lines and power lines, I mean, you know, I don't have to explain what a telephone pole is to you, you're a smart person you've been around the block once or twice.

But you know, so you've got these poles up there with these lines that stretch. And, in the winter what happens is snow and ice and icicles form on those power lines and it gets dangerous. And sometimes the weight of the of those icicles, they actually snap the lines and the power goes down and, so what do they have to do? Every year they have to send line people, you know workers in hard hats, they have to climb each pole and literally, literally take a take a tool and shake the power lines to shake off the ice and the snow. And it's hard and it's rugged and the line workers hate it because it's dangerous.

And so one day, um, this company, PP&L, Pacific Power and Light, this is, these are the people who have to do this. They got together to try and come up with solutions. Like, "How can we solve this problem?" And they weren't really coming up with anything and then at some point they decided, "Okay, let's just take a 15-minute break."

So over by the coffee machine, they were just kind of talking and they said, "Yeah, we just hate having to climb up those poles and shake the lines," and one person said, "Yeah, I was out there a few weeks ago and I actually had to get away from a bear, a bear came out of the woods. And I had to get back into the truck you know to avoid the, to avoid the bear." And so somebody jokingly says, "Well, what you should have done, you should have gotten the bear to climb the pole and shake the lines." So, "Yeah, that's what we should do, we should get the bears to climb the poles and shake the lines!"

Stupid idea, right?

But they were on a break, they decided to play with it. They said, "Well, how, how can we get the bears to climb the poles?" "Well, that's easy. Bears like honey. Put a pot of honey at the top of every telephone pole!" Brilliant, right? Again, they're just playing. "Well how are we going to get the pot of honey there, because we have to climb the pole to put the honey...." "No no, we'll have the honey lowered by helicopters! That's what we'll do!" And then somebody said, "Well, that wouldn't work because the vibration from the rotors of the helicopters would shake the punny, would shake the honey off the poles."

And then somebody said, "Hang on a second, what, go back, what did you say?" "Well the vibrations would shake the honey off the...." "Okay, would the vibrations from the helicopter rotors also shake the snow and ice off the, off the phone lines and the power lines?" They thought about it and said, "You know what, I'll bet it would!"

And that's how it's done now. That's how they get the snow and the ice off the power lines. By using helicopters to shake it off because of the vibration of the rotor.

Now think about this, where did that come from? Where did that, that idea, that idea that saved millions of dollars a year because it was expensive to send an individual person up each phone line, up each telephone pole. Where did the idea come from? Somebody saying, "What you should do is get bears to climb the poles."

Now, the boss could have easily said, "Okay, break's over, that's a stupid idea, it's time to get back to work now."

But because it was a break, because they could play, because they gave themselves the time to play with the idea, they all of a sudden came up with an idea that actually worked. They came up with the, with the bear, the bear climbing the pole was the idea, the bad idea, the idea that led to the idea.

So, don't be so quick to discount what's supposedly a bad idea. When you're working with your team to kind of come up with a great idea for a, for a challenge or an opportunity, and somebody says something you think, "Okay that's just stupid," don't dismiss it out of hand. Play with a little bit.

It could be the idea that leads to the idea.

And if you don't allow that process to play itself out, you could be missing the next million dollar idea. Again the "idea that leads to the idea."

I'm Bill Stainton, I'll see you next time when I help you Turn Your Creativity into Money™.

About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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