Founder of Ideahaus®, Director of Idea Lab
July 6, 2017
Where do great ideas come from? Why do some people have better ideas than others? Why do some companies seem to have so many big ideas and others don’t have one?
All of these questions have the same answer.
For most of my career, I have made my living by selling my ideas. They have been a viable product – the result of a service – and have been differentiated in the marketplace by the processes I created to generate good ideas again and again for every type of business.
People like me are very often referred to as “the Idea Guy” – a term of endearment most of us have come to know for the go-to person on a team that generates new ideas or solves problems consistently, over time. I mean, one great idea can be a fluke. Two and they still call you lucky. Do it for as long as me and then they call you the Idea Guy.
What most people don’t understand is the real role of the Idea Guy (or the equally capable Idea Gal 😉 It’s not our job to come up with the ideas, but to facilitate the process for the team. As much as it’s fun to believe we’re magical, like a unicorn, we’re not; this is real work. It’s hard, it’s important and the result has the potential to impact the success of a business.
The Idea Guy is part of the C-Suite. Sometimes titled Chief Strategy Officer (CSO), they work under the leadership of the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), in conjunction with the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) and COO (Chief Operations Officer) to make a plan of action that answers the question, “How might we get people to do what we want them to do?”
The education for this position is not quantifiable, and the qualifications are not consistently defined. In fact, both are all over the board, but the needs of the team tend to be similar: left AND right brain thinking.
When I was researching this post I contacted some of the clients I have worked with to get their insights from their experiences with this role. Brian Kagen, former EVP / CMO for Medifast, shared his insight (which was similar to other client feedback) to explain why he added a CSO to his team:
“It’s very unique to find an idea guy with both the left brain analytical and project management acumen, as well as the right brain creative thinking ability. We needed that role on our team to be as comfortable coming up with a unique and compelling communications strategy, as well as establishing relationships throughout the organization to ensure the strategy gets executed. We also needed to hear it like it is with the sole purpose of helping me (the CMO) deliver on our promises. An external idea guy with an objective perspective worked for us because you became a trusted and integral part of the team.”
An idea guy or gal is not someone you put in a box or keep in a cage until you need some ideas. We don’t work like that. Not the good ones.
We have analytical processes that are manageable and measurable, which helps our team members better understand the things they have yet to experience. Trust in our process, learn what we know, and contribute to the outcome.
We have leadership and communication skills, inside the C-suite and throughout the organization. Follow our lead when its our turn to lead and let us communicate with everyone on the team.
We are accountable, just like the rest of leadership team, and put our reputations on the line every time we stand up in front of everyone and say, “I have an idea.”
And, statistically, we are incredibly creative, so if you let us do what we do, we just may make all the difference in the world.