A good friend of mine wrote an instructional book for life. The book was intended for his children to read and learn from; my friend was dying from ALS and knew his time on this earth was short and that he wouldn’t be here to personally pass along life’s most important lessons. He passed away last year and the other day I pulled out his book. Of the 20 or so key messages he thought most important for his children, one stood out in my mind ”Always come prepared with an idea.”

As a corporate consultant and leadership adviser I’ve always advocated the benefits of creativity and innovation; especially for leaders. However, it wasn’t until reading my friends book that I felt compelled to come up with a better way for individuals to further develop the skills required to “Always come prepared with an idea.”

An idea shows the world that you are thinking deeply, that you care enough to go beyond the obvious “group think” and see even the most mundane situation from its many complex sides.

Former American Express CEO Harvey Golub, is often cited as the main reason the company returned to impressive profitability and soaring share prices. He was an advocate of innovative thinking and encouraged his people to come forward with new ideas. Whenever one of his executive would come to him with a strategic proposal he would first ask them how they came to think of their proposal. Then he would ask them to explain how different their initiative would be if they thought about it in another way. Harvey Golub understood the importance of strengthening his executive’s desire and ability to be curious—one of the six competencies associated with creativity and innovation

You only have to witness one of your ideas in motion, to understand the importance of nurturing, deconstructing, rebuilding, playing around with, synthesizing, and exposing them. The best will blossom into something and the world will be a better place as a result.
We all have the opportunity to translate our unique personal perspectives and views of the world into extremely useful ideas.
As a leader, once you understand how to “Always come prepared with an idea.” You can consequently help others think beyond their existing mental boundaries, connecting them with opportunities previously hidden from view.

The leading enabler of improvement in the 21st century is innovation, the problem is most people don’t think they are innovative. The reality is they’ve never been taught how to innovate. Organizations are in the infancy stage of learning how to cultivate, incubate and profit from innovation.

How prepared is your organization to profit from innovation?