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10 ways to turn ideas into action

row of lightbulbs with one of the lit

A colleague I deeply respect recently sent me an email with something tremendously valuable inside — a great idea. Working for Hallmark, I receive emails with ideas all the time. But this one got me thinking about why some ideas take hold and others don’t.

Ideas are everywhere and everyone has them. (Kind of like opinions.) But even great ideas can languish in the minds of extraordinary people, never winning an opportunity to become something even more amazing — like lasting and far-reaching change.

So, I’d like to share 10 practical tips for turning ideas into action.

1. Validate it. What data can you find to support your idea? What’s going on in business, society, politics or the financial sector that adds credence to it? Giving your idea a factual foundation helps establish credibility and context.

2. Align it. How does your idea support your or someone else’s business objectives? I’ve seen many great ideas die because they don’t connect to what others consider important or timely.

3. Visualize it. How can you help people see your idea? Is there a framework you can use or some other visual that makes it more memorable? Seeing an idea while hearing it helps others understand and share it more easily.

4. Build upon it. Don’t stop nurturing the seed of your idea. Be on the lookout for additional insights or trends that make your idea more compelling than when it first occurred to you. Use the input of others to strengthen your idea. (Remember to give them credit.)

5. "Friend" it. Similar to tip No. 4, what other initiatives are under way that have a direct link to your idea? Sometimes two or more distinct ideas can come together to make a bigger, better idea. Put the idea's potential before your need to "own" it.

6. Provoke with it. Is your idea new and surprising? Will it cause people to think differently? The more provocative your idea is, the more "sticky" it will be. And the more others will adopt it, which means greater impact.

7. Humanize it. Connect your idea to real-life experiences. How does your idea make life better for people? How will the company or entity benefit? The best ideas enrich our lives and change our circumstances in wonderful ways.

8. Prototype it. Bring your idea to life. Sometimes people can't imagine a new idea; they need to see it at work. Build it. Craft it. Shape it. Demonstrate it. Whatever is necessary to show people that your idea works, do it!

9. Socialize it. Ever hear a really compelling idea, only to never hear it again? The next time this happens, encourage the person to share their idea. If you are that person, follow some of the above steps, and share your idea. Expose it to a few people you really respect, allow their responses to refine your thinking and begin sharing more broadly. Great ideas spread like wildfire. (But not if you keep them to yourself.)

10. Let it go. Sometimes a great idea goes nowhere. Sometimes it starts as a great idea, but gets replaced by something better. Don't be so married to your idea that you can't tell when it's time to release it. You may come back to it. If not, that's okay. You'll have other ideas.

So there you go. Not rocket science, but a few practical tips for turning ideas into action.

Tara Jaye Frank is founder and CEO of TJF Career Modeling LLC. The former Hallmark executive has served as co-designer of the NEW Executive Leaders Forum and the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.