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  • Thomas Storteboom

Are you thinking BIG ENOUGH?

Ideas... They come from a lot of different places. They come in all shapes and sizes. They can be mysterious and exciting. You gravitate toward some and reject others. So how do you know if the ideas your team is working on are big enough? What even does big enough mean? This article is going to look at a very simplified way to determine if your ideas are big enough. First lets examine some potential impacts if your ideas are the wrong size.

What happens if your ideas are too small?

Ideas turn into projects. Projects turn into work load. If you are like most companies, you have a lot of important projects underway. Too many projects creates a feeling of being overwhelmed. Too many projects that are small creates frustration because people feel like they are wasting their time on things that do not matter. With small ideas, you need to work on a lot more of them to accomplish the same growth. Small ideas create resource issues within your group. If you are not growing as quick as you would like and everyone feels a bit burned out, small ideas may be a contributing factor.

What happens if your ideas are too big?

This does not even seem possible, does it? How can you have an idea that is too big? One of the key issues with ideas that are too big for an organization is that they make people uncomfortable. Individuals may avoid ideas that are too big because they have a hard time seeing the possibility of the idea ever working. Similar to too many small ideas, a really big idea can cause a feeling of being overwhelmed. Another issue with big ideas is that the bigger the idea, the bigger the risk. Since we are all somewhat risk adverse, big ideas have a hard time seeing the light of day. People will avoid big ideas because they prefer to work on something that is safer and that they know they can be successful at. If you have some really big ideas in your portfolio, take a look at if they are moving forward as fast as they should. Individuals who are overwhelmed by the size or scared by the risk might be slowing them down.


So what is the right size idea for your organization? It definitely varies by company and it is obvious that not every idea is going to be worth the same. However, if you figure out what the right size ideas are for your organization, you can begin to evaluate ideas and determine if the belong in your portfolio. There are certainly more complicated and sophisticated ways to measure and track this, but this is a quick method to determine if an idea should have a place in your portfolio or not.

I completely understand that there are going to be times where you take on larger ideas or even smaller ones for strategic reasons. Regardless, this is a good metric to keep track of the overall health the ideas in your portfolio.

Before we jump to the secret sauce, let's align on a few definitions:

  • Idea Size ($): This is the sweet spot average value in $ of each idea in your portfolio. This is your target for how big your ideas should be.

  • Desired Growth ($): How much revenue do you want to add each year by bringing new ideas to market?

  • Capacity (#): How many ideas or projects can your organization deliver in a year? Be realistic. This is likely lower than the number you are working on today. If you are not sure, take a look at how many ideas you actually launch in a year. Start with that number.

Seems simple, doesn't it... But when is the last time you actually evaluated your portfolio in this way? When is the last time you gave your team a challenge to come up with ideas larger than a certain amount? Not sure? Let's take a look at how you are doing today.

How to check your current idea size

To verify how big you are currently thinking, just average your existing portfolio of ideas. Add up the current value ($) of all the ideas you are working on and divide by the (#) of projects. This average gives you an indication of how big you are currently thinking.

Are your ideas too small?

For some of you, this number is going to be a lot smaller than your Idea Sweet Spot. If this is you, then you probably fall into one of two camps. First, you might not be on track to hit your growth targets because your small ideas will not have enough impact. Secondly, your team might be overworked because you are trying to complete too many projects to hit your targets. If you focused on thinking bigger and working on bigger projects you could actually:

Accomplish more by doing less!

This is achieved when you are working on the right size ideas. By working on fewer but more significant projects you can actually increase capacity. Free up resources from ideas that do not move you forward very far and focus on right sized ideas. You can actually move further along your growth journey by working on less projects. Everyone wins in this scenario.

So what do you do with small ideas? There are two options, first you can kill them as mentioned above, or you can make them big. If the idea meets a strategically aligned customer need, spend some time evaluating the idea to see if you can grow it. Can you sell the product in an additional market or to new customers? Could you add features that would make it more valuable or appeal to a larger audience? Growing an idea is a great way to build on the work you have already completed and get the results you need. Just do not fool yourself into making the idea bigger than it really has the potential to be.

Are your ideas too big?

If your current idea size is much larger than your Idea Sweet Spot, then congratulations on thinking big! You are on you way. If your big ideas are not progressing as fast as you would like, remember the issues outlined previously. Your ideas might be too big for people to get behind or too risky for them to want to work on. If this is the case, think about how you could tackle the idea in smaller chunks. Can you accomplish it in phases? Could you release it to different markets sequentially? How could you accomplish your big idea in a way that allows you to grow into it?

Living in the sweet spot

Now that you are thinking big enough for your organization, enjoy the benefits that come with it. There is freedom in being able to say yes or no to an idea because it does not fit with what you are trying to accomplish. Relax in your new found ability ability to accomplish more by doing less. Focus on the important projects that are the right size to get you where you want to go. Embrace the knowledge that you know the ideas you are working on are big enough to deliver your growth strategy.

Most of all, never quit thinking big!

Thanks for reading!



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