Look where no one's looking… and then be prepared for the 10 p's.

Joan Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California

The other day I had an interesting conversation with a friend, who questioned my statement that in order to be a successful leader, you have to look where no one's looking. My proclamation was based on something I read in Gary Hamel's book "Leading the Revolution," in which Hamel explains that you can only escape mediocrity and incrementalism (making small profits through small improvements) by looking where no one else is looking and, hence, obtain ideas that will help you write your own future and possibly the one of the entire industry you operate in. And it makes sense: looking where no one else is looking will enhance your chances to come up with something no one ever thought of before!

My friend refuted my statement by exclaiming that looking where no one else is looking does not necessarily lead to success. Recalling the old Gillette story, he asserted that one needs a lot of patience after coming up with a good idea, in order to get it developed and, hence, made successful.

Of course there is a lot of truth to that as well. Looking where no one looks is definitely not the all-encompassing secret to success. That was not my philosophy behind the exclamation; as little as I think it was Hamel's. But it's a start! Yet, there is much more to it than one would think at first sight. It is like the old saying my friend cited as a conclusion to our conversation, "the closer you look at something, the more there is to see."

It was this little dialogue that ultimately led to my list of p's that one has to keep in store once a great idea enters the mind:

1. Patience: A great idea may not be applicable right away. Besides, it may take a long time before you will be able to pull the right strings in order to give your idea a chance.

2. Perseverance: If you had expected a rapid development, and it turns out not to happen that way, you may find yourself losing interest in your idea and tossing it aside. Only pushing-power and persistence will enable you to stand up when you're floored, and try again.

3. Persuasion: Talking people into giving your idea a chance; convincing them to listen to you: that's not an easy task. You will need a lot of influential skills to do that.

4. Problem solving skills: Once they listened and decided to give your idea a shot, the hurdles will inevitably come. The easy way out is to say: let it be. But having made it this far, you owe it to yourself to continue. And so you look for solutions to every problem that rises. You perceive them as opportunities, in order to erase the bad taste of the word "problem" from your mind.

5. Planning: this skill could be listed anywhere. Your whole project stands or falls with the solidity of your planning. How will you do it? What do you want from it? Who is it for? Where will you use it? When? Why?

6. Passion: If you don't believe in your idea or yourself, you can pack your entrepreneurial bags and look for a regular 9-5 job, for no one will believe in it if you don't in the first place. Without passion you won't persuade anyone anyway. Passion and persuasion are, in this case, interdependent skills.

7. Principles: You will have to know how far you want to go to get your idea developed. How much are you willing to sacrifice? Where will you draw the line? What is it worth for you? And what is it not?

8. Perspective: You will have to be able to envision the applicability of your idea and the way it will be received by your target group (Who is your target group, by the way?). If you don't have a vision, your idea is useless anyway.

9. Punctuality: You will have to show that you're trustworthy; for starters, to the people you work with in the process of developing your idea. If they don't like your mentality in the first place, the ultimate promotion of you as the conceiver of this brilliant idea will crash, and this may negatively affect your wonderful brainchild as well!

10. Promotion skills: selling yourself; selling your idea. You needed those from the very start. And you'll need them to bring it all to a good end as well. You have to be able to promote your intentions as convincingly as you will ultimately promote your final product. We're all in sales, remember? All the time!

So, now that the 10 p's are in place, I guess you agree with me that the closer look at my initial statement, "looking where no one else looks," has opened up a mosaic of follow-ups in order to get the whole thing working.

But it's definitely worthwhile...
If mediocrity is not your style...