Idea Shaping

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By Charles Lee
Charles Lee is the founder and CEO of Ideation, an idea-making company that specializes in helping ministries and businesses effectively integrate their strategic plans into day-to-day implementation. He is the author of Good Idea. Now What?

“Too many people take their dreams to the graveyard. Under the rectangular pieces of sod are songs yet unsung, books left unwritten, and masterpieces that were never painted. If I could mine the potential out of one graveyard, I’d be the richest person on earth!” 

I once heard Wayne Cordeiro, best-selling author and founding pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii, make this observation. It has stuck with me. As someone who believes ideas can, and have, changed our world, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to bring about impact. I’m not alone. Words such as “ideation” and “innovation” have become buzzwords for our culture, including our churches. 

But a new—and much needed—conversation is starting that gives hope to actualizing our dreams. A growing number of kidmin leaders and experts are examining and talking about what it takes to move ideas forward and make them happen. The good news is, there are proven ways to help concepts become reality. 

Idea Shaping Principle No. 1
Implementing an idea is hard work. 
Idea making requires a high level of intentional planning, strategy, and hard work. Unfortunately, too many creative leaders have given themselves a false sense of permission not to organize, all in the name of artistry and creativity. But the reality is, most creative people who live out their dreams have actualized their passion through intentional planning and hard work. Creativity requires organization. Thomas Edison famously quipped about taking an idea from imagination to realization: “One percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” You may not think you’re gifted at organization, but never let that be an excuse for a lack of implementation because there are no magical shortcuts from idea to implementation.

Idea Shaping Principle No. 2
The most potent obstacles to idea shaping lie within us.
Good ideas take time to develop. Perhaps this is why many kidmin leaders give up on concepts too soon. Some rationalize this premature decision as necessary for stewarding limited resources or implementing a God-given change of direction. But a perceived lack of resources can actually fuel creativity, reflecting the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Breakthrough often occurs when the feeling of frustration sets in. Idea making requires us to be open for formation as well as change of direction. 

Idea Shaping Principle No. 3
“Spatial” ideation must be considered in the process.
The environment that surrounds us fuels our creativity and ability to see and feel what we’re trying to form. You don’t have to be in the “coolest” space to create, but pursue the kind of space that could offer the most relevant experience related to your passions. For example, if your passion for kidmin is leading kids into worship, then developing your ideas and skills in a boardroom probably won't be the best option for you. If you want to create or develop ideas, stay close to the people the ideas will benefit and work in the environment where the idea making will happen.

Idea Shaping Principle No. 4
Writing it down gives perspective.
Before you go tell someone about your brainstorm, put it on paper. Be careful not just to take it from mind to mouth. Writing it down forces you to organize your thoughts and provides a degree of needed perspective. Writing down your thoughts will also help you anticipate questions people might have. The time you spend processing your idea will help you to be ready to respond to those questions clearly and confidently. It all begins with writing it down.

Idea Shaping Principle No. 5
A creative process is essential to executing ideas.
Establish a process because it forces discipline, and discipline produces creative solutions. Whether your process includes a particular location, time, and/or team, identifying how and when you work the best is key. To help guide the creative-process development, ask yourself some specific questions: Where is the best place for me to create? When do I create the best? What distractions do I commonly face? How will I break through these distractions?

Idea Shaping Principle No. 6
Questions and improved strategy come up throughout the process. 
Idea makers tenaciously assess their ideas and invite others to do the same. Great ideas require careful questioning for development and implementation. Great questions asked while working toward a goal often lead to more intentional strategy. Note, I said, “while working”—don’t expect to have all the necessary questions or answers before working on an idea.

Your ideas can become reality! Through proper implementation, they will. Though there are no magical steps for idea making, doing something today to move your ideas forward is important. Why? Because you were designed by God Himself with ideas and dreams unique only to you, and He stands ready to help you develop a working process for creative implementation.

First, Plan Your Plan!
In shaping your idea, developing your creative process, and implementing your plan, consider the following areas to help guide your planning:

Business Plan
A business plan is essential for any endeavor because it provides direction to vision or passion. It helps you determine if your idea can be implemented.

Sustainability
How will you fund your endeavor? Where will you find the fiscal and human capital? Does your church have concrete commitments that will help support it? 

Scalability
How much growth potential is realistic over the next three years? Will you and your team commit to implementing the plan for the next three years?

Simplicity and Uniqueness
Is your message simple enough for supporters to grasp and communicate it? How will you make it accessible enough that people can easily get involved?

Longevity
Thinking long-term also provides a broader perspective of what you hope to develop. It can minimize unnecessary, short-term frustrations.

Investment
Too many idea makers get sidetracked by costs. Instead, think of your costs as investments. Get advice if you need it on how to maximize a limited budget.

LeadershipRyan Frank