Sustaining a New Idea

I speak at a lot of conferences during the year, often on ideas related to macro change and social capital.  Usually when I finish up, people will approach with questions or want to dig deeper on concepts and good conversations ensue.  They are excited about adopting these principles when they go back to their agencies, yet, to the best of my knowledge, few people are able to apply the ideas to their work.  Recently I have been pondering on this dilemma.

I know that through translational theory research, it takes a long time for a new idea to become mainstreamed.  Some estimates suggest upward to 17-20 years.  Sustaining a new idea is challenging.

I know this as it has happened to me, especially earlier in my career.  I would go to a conference, get really fired up at something I heard or saw, came back hell-bent on applying the new idea or thought, only to find myself unable to realize the innovation.  I am sure this has happened to you as well.

So what can we do about this?  How can we sustain a new idea and see it to fruition?  This is not an easy path, but here are some of the things I am doing more of and finding that they help.  First, make sure you take good notes on what you are hearing; write down references and leads that are associated with the new idea.  Next, talk about the ideas with others; start this right at the conference or gathering while the idea is fresh.  Get others opinions, even look for some leads that can help you dig deeper.  When you get back, start doing research on the idea; call people, buy books, google leads, follow recommended TED talks.  Then keep the conversation going.  Report your idea at your staff meeting, seek out your supervisor or director and tell them about your thoughts on application.  Keep digging and thinking and processing.

Sustainability is challenging - and it is easy to go back to a default.  Passion is the fuel for change, and keeping passionate requires fuel.  Keep looking for new fuel to help you realize your idea by talking, researching, and exploring.

For those of you who have been successful in sustaining a new idea, what recommendations do you have for us?  What has experience taught you?