In 1996, the First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton published a book called It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us. In the book, Mrs. Clinton focuses on the impact individual and groups outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child’s well-being. Personally, I have not yet read this book, but in a conversation with friends on the topic of raising kids the book came up. I’m a dreamer, and when I heard the phrase, it takes a village, I began thinking about how ideas need a village in order to turn into an innovation.

It’s a common misbelief that a single idea turns into a successful innovation. I don’t believe this. In my experience, it takes hundreds of follow-on ideas to supplement and support the original concept.

For example, for my new widget idea, you’ll need development and production ideas:

  • How big should it be?
  • What color should it be?
  • What’s the best material to make it out of?
  • Where can get the material and supporting technology?
  • How can we convert or adapt our existing manufacturing facility to produce the widget?

And creative financing and resourcing options:

  • What projects can we kill or postpone in order to free up the resources we need to start producing this new widget next year?
  • How can we get the skill set we need to develop the widget?

And marketing and sales ideas:

  • How can we package the new widget so that it flies off the shelves?
  • What do we call the new widget?
  • What the best pricing options?
  • Where and how do we launch?

And distribution:

  • How are we going to get the new widgets to our selected markets?
  • How can we store them in our existing warehouses?

You get the point.  It takes many ideas (or other villagers) to realize the value. Let’s also not forget support from a champion. No idea can get through the innovation funnel without a champion. A person who believes in the value of the idea so much that are willing to fight the naysayers, go around road blocks, and do whatever it takes to nurture and support the idea into a reality.

At every step in the innovation process, other people and their ideas are needed to help raise your idea into an innovation. It truly takes a village. Don’t lose sight of this. If you have an idea management system or ideation process, encourage and support its use at every step in your innovation process, not just at the front-end of innovation.

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