The thing that made Thomas Edison so good at what he did was that he could not only visualize something no one else before had, but he could turn that vision into an actual invention. I don't think that it's a coincidence that Edison was also a successful businessman. While half of his success was due to an extraordinary imagination, the other half was due to his ability to make his ideas happen. In his case, he created inventions with the tools he had at hand. Modern day "idea people" often have to know how to use staff resources to create the final "invention" or intiative. In order to be successful, these corporate idea people need to be able to accurately communicate the vision behind a product or project to teams or layers of teams below them, they have to be able to figure out what resources are needed to make it happen, and they have to follow up to make sure things progress as they should.
I've all too often seen great ideas die on the vine due to an executive's inability to understand the process of producing something from the idea. You have to wonder how many good ideas evaporate into the ether because their owners didn't have the practical talent to bring them to fruition.
"Innovation" is one of the latest buzzwords to catch fire in the corporate marketplace. But I think it's dangerous to encourage folks to think entirely in that one area. Great ideas are often the catalyst for business growth, but they have to be nurtured to become somthing real.
Let's say someone has the idea to create the world's most comfortable lounge chair. He kind of has a vision of what it will look like, he knows who he'll market it to, and how he wants the chair to make his customers feel. But he doesn't take it any further. Another guy comes along with the same idea, only he knows he'll have to incorporate zero-gravity declining angles in the chair's design, line it with memory foam, and incorporate some kind of adjustment mechanism. He knows how to run a cost analysis of the materials he'll need and he knows how many people it will take to produce the chair. Whose chair do you think will make it sooner to the marketplace?
Thank heaven for dreamers, but they aren't geniuses until their ideas become real.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.