How Are You Filling Your Idea Pipeline?

I’ve just been reading a terrific new book called High-Profit Prospecting by my friend and colleague Mark Hunter. Mark is a consummate sales professional, and his book is about how to keep your sales pipeline full so that you never run out of valuable prospects.

I’m not a sales professional, but I am an idea professional. And, just like I think it’s vital for people in the sales business to keep their sales pipelines full, I think it’s equally vital for people in the idea business to keep their idea pipelines full.

By the way, as a leader, you are in the idea business.

In his book, Mark talks about the importance of not leaving prospecting to chance, not just waiting (and hoping) for prospects to fall into the pipeline. He says that a true sales professional should have weekly (preferably daily) dedicated prospecting time scheduled on the calendar. Because keeping the pipeline full is that important.

Likewise, leaders should schedule time weekly (preferably daily) to fill their idea pipeline. Because it’s that important.

So, how do you do this? Through four primary sources.

1. What you read.

There’s a reason why Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk read voraciously. They understand the value of keeping their mental pipeline full of new ideas.

“But I’m too busy to read, Bill.”

Really? Busier than Bill Gates? Because he’s pretty busy. And pretty rich. And he reads 50 books a year. I don’t think these are unrelated. So, I’m sorry-what’s your excuse again?

Schedule time to read. Every day, if possible. (And it is possible.) I’m not talking about Grisham and Patterson. They’re fine for the beach. Read about ideas. Read about things you don’t already know.

3 Basic Moves Innovators Have In Common With Toddlers

Is patience your best virtue when it comes down to crafting the life cycle of your business methodology or managing a new project? In which way can patience complement persistence within the infancy stage of your business model?

A successful operation, whether it’s a nonprofit organization, a new workforce, an innovative concept, or a club cannot allow haste to make waste, even in a fast-paced environment. It is reported that children who skip the crawling phase as a baby could develop such challenges as suffering from speech problems or have difficulty reading and writing due to underdevelopment in part of their brain. The same principle holds true with innovation. It is unwise to think you can valiantly win a competitive race or monopolize an industry with underdeveloped planning and preparation.

Remarkably, new business owners and innovators have something in common with toddlers.

Crawl

Babies develop the ability to move and use eye and body coordination in order to crawl. They observe and discover a creative way to mobilize their bodies. Innovators sharpen their intuition and use their ability to conceive, imagine, position themselves and develop in their growth stage before investing in more sophisticated and advanced applications.

Walk

Toddlers test their ability to stand up and walk by holding on to something in order to stabilize their bodies. Innovators test to refine their tools and metrics to make sure they are in compliance with the coordination and integration of their strategy. This phase is instrumental in deciding whether or not their concept has the leeway to successfully stand on its own before launching.

Run

Toddlers strengthen their leg muscles and discover they can pick up their momentum, by walking faster and eventually begin running. After successfully testing their concept and business methodology, innovators proceed by producing and delivering their products or services to end-users. Their teams make sure every component is effective and sustainable. If it isn’t, they find out where the problem lies, make the necessary adjustments and start running again.

To understand developmental psychology in business, technology, and innovation, one must understand the why, what and how end-users change over the course of their life cycle. Innovators become magnets of knowledge, opportunity, collaborations, and communication. Just as children learn to change their mobility scale and grow through observation and movement, innovators continuously modify and improve their infrastructure to corner the market of newness in their industry’s environment.

How to Become a Master of Your Work

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you either are, or you want to be, good at what you do. I’m going to take that even further and assume that you either are, or want to be, great at what you do.

But are you committed to becoming an absolute master? Possibly one of the greatest of all time? And, if so, how do you get there?

My brother-in-law Steve has a Ph.D. in musicology. He’s one of the world’s foremost Beethoven scholars. [An aside: There's nothing quite like touring Beethoven's birth house in Bonn, Germany in the company of one of the world's foremost Beethoven scholars! Someday I'll have to return the favor and take Steve to Liverpool.] In addition, he also wrote the definitive biography of French composer Erik Satie. So, when I asked him who he thought was the greatest composer of all time, I was a little surprised when he answered, without hesitation, “Bach, of course!”

Johann Sebastian Bach is, arguably (very arguably), the greatest composer of all time. He was inarguably a complete master of his art. Which brings me to an article I was just reading about Bach which talks about how diligently he studied everything that had come before. The article sums it up beautifully this way:

“Bach became an absolute master of his art by never ceasing to be a student of it.”

(By the way, art historians would probably say the same about Picasso.)

You become a master of your art/craft/occupation/calling by never ceasing to be a student of it.
And, because you’re a leader, you need to be a continuous student of two disciplines:

Your industry.
Leadership itself.

If you want to be a master leader in the widget industry (the one that they’ll be writing articles about 267 years after your death), you need to be a voracious student of both widgets and leadership. Which means you subscribe to Widgets Monthly as well as Harvard Business Review. You read Widget Design in the 1800s as well as Maxwell, Cialdini, and Bill George. [Full disclosure: I don't think there is an actual book called Widget Design in the 1800s.]

The point is that what came before matters. Bach knew it. Picasso knew it. And you should know it too. Yes, you need to stay on top of current trends. But only by studying what came before can you put the present into context. And it’s from within that context that you can see the patterns (if you look for them) that can help you predict the future.

Bach made musical breakthroughs because he was a student of music. Picasso made artistic breakthroughs because he was a student of art.

And, as a leader in your field, you will make breakthroughs-and become a master-only when you become a student of both leadership and your field.