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With Creativity, Go Big or Be S.M.A.R.T.?

Big ideas are what people are told businesses want and the world needs. Humanity needs ideas that will solve problems that threaten the planet’s habitability and human beings with extinction. Businesses need solutions that will generate billions of dollars of profit. Big ideas are what propel people to fame and fortune, and they allow us to live up to our full potential.

When you hear sayings like:

  • Go big or go home.
  • Shoot for the moon! If you fail, you’ll at least wind up among the stars (Les Brown or Norman Vincent Peale).
  • Big, hairy, audacious goals (James Collins and Jerry Porras).

You get inspired. Elon Musk’s SpaceX isn’t exciting because it’s successful; it’s exciting because it’s doing something that’s never been done before. Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Disneyland were exciting because they had never been done before. There’s something intrinsically motivation about doing the something that people say can’t be done.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” – Walt Disney.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’” – Audrey Hepburn.

But oftentimes, the person with the big idea is shutdown by management, circumstances and other people. Even if the idea is sound, people are afraid to implement it. The would much rather rely on what has already been produced. No one wants to be the first through the door because that’s when things get bloody. The status quo is easy. Maintaining the current situation doesn’t threaten anyone. New ideas do, even when people understand that new ideas are necessary for the survival of the business or the species.

For people who are looking at trying to maintain the status quo while moving forward, S.M.A.R.T. goals are the answer. The anacronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Ugh. If you know they’re attainable and realistic, there’s no challenge in these types of goals, even if you think you’re stretching yourself a little bit. People weren’t meant to be just stretch a little. But S.M.A.R.T. goals are a lot less risky than the “impossible” dream. Businesses jump all over these types of goals. A new flavor of chip? A new edition of a phone? A car model based on a successful car from last year? These are all S.M.A.R.T. goals that are profitable and easy to green light. They won’t get you to the next level, but they will most likely keep the profits rolling in.

The truth is it’s a little of both. Set the big goals, go after the grand ideas, and use the S.M.A.R.T. goals to get you there. If you know where you want to go, you can get there, step by step. Cutting the big goal into smaller pieces will help get you there without getting overwhelmed.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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