Thursday, November 13, 2008

Babe Ruth and the Power of Ideas

Every now and then you hear something that feels so true it takes you by surprise. It happened when I heard Steve Jobs talking about upcoming models of the iPhone. He said, “Babe Ruth only had one home run. He just kept hitting it over and over again”. Pow! Talk about surprising with the obvious.

How often do we see an idea nudged off course and destroyed by incrementalism? A tweak here, a modification there, some repositioning and the beauty of what you had evaporates. The lesson is simple. When you have a great idea, don’t immediately start changing it into a different great idea. Let your idea breathe. More is not always better and this is exactly where Jobs was going with his Babe Ruth metaphor. Most phone companies roll out handset model after model with tweaks to the colors and the layout but with very little thought to what all these different versions mean to the people who are buying them. The important question to ask about any product is how it delivers in terms of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy - and to ask that question relentlessly. You don’t have to hold an iPhone for more than a nanosecond to know that Jobs’ team had that kind of focus and discipline backing up their inspirational design.

Having a great idea is one thing; knowing that you have it separates out the winners. I’ve always been impressed by the way the Kaplan Thaler Group – another member of the Publicis family – harvests ideas. At meetings, and not just creative meetings, one person is dedicated to being the idea catcher. Their task is to capture every idea, big, little, good, bad, and from anyone in the room, not just the person with the loudest voice or the biggest office. How many times have you been at a meeting when you’ve heard a good idea only to let it slip away as the meeting roared onwards?

As the economy tightens, ideas will become increasingly important to move business upward and onward. Why not try the Idea Catcher idea and see what it brings you?


Iconic said...

I guess the role of the 'idea catcher' sits with the purpose of listening and recording the reflections and deflections of the collaboration.

This is more than taking minutes. I see the use of a mind map would work wonderfully as ideas upon ideas grow out from the root, trunk and branches of the conversations.

A designated person ('idea catcher') should use a white board to visually show everyone what their thoughts are as well as the growth of the idea. It is an organic process which will keep the collaboration focus on an objective.


Anonymous said...

Great idea. I keep an 'Ideas file' on the desktop of my laptop and add ideas to it as I sit in meetings and conferences. Just the act of writing it down helps to recall and make it happen.