How To Choose One Great Idea

[4-Min Read + How-To] When your mind is in overdrive with creative ideas, this technique can help you regain focus. It may require some effort and patience, but it leads to a confident decision.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

How To Choose One Great Idea

When your mind is in overdrive with creative ideas, this technique can help you regain focus. It may require some effort and patience, but it leads to a confident decision.

This story will prove a useful escape route if you struggle to distil a long list of ideas into one option. You might need to do that to:

  • Move a project/idea forward
  • Respond to your boss/partner/other who has asked you to make a recommendation
  • Decide a way ahead when a group of people have conflicting views

I find it strange when people say they’re “not creative”. It’s a belief that often develops because the person has a narrow definition of creativity or they are unwilling to acknowledge that their mind is expert at making things up.

Your mind dedicates most of its functionality and effort to creativity. From generating your worldview to problem-solving and learning new skills. Almost every moment of every day, your mind creates something that didn’t exist before.

That’s why I often have too many ideas.

I only need to invest a small amount of effort to generate a long list of options. And, if I’m in a good mood, all will be good ones that pique my interest.

Last week, Sean and I talked about diversifying the farm’s income and future. We have the conversation regularly because:

  • We’re both in our early 50s now. We must work smarter around the farm, rather than physically harder, to continue doing what we love.
  • The dynamics of farming and markets are changing.
  • Land value is increasing, and every year,
  • There are more ways to generate income from our assets.

Here’s the idea list from that discussion:

  • Bison farming (breeding for sale)
  • Bison training/rental
  • Rent-a-cow (leasing animals to small lot holders)
  • Horse breeding
  • Horse training
  • Farming education days
  • Recording studios
  • Writing studios
  • Tiny homes
  • Glamping/camping/caravan sites
  • Glamping with bison
  • Koala habitat (+ tourism)
  • Horse riding farm stays
  • Allotment leasing
  • Small-scale heritage crops
  • Dog farm stay and training

Any of these could achieve our goals, but we need more time, resources and inclination to do all of them. So, we must whittle the list down to a few of the best options.

Step 1: Define the end game

Where do you need to get to, and by when?

Getting clear about the result and timeframe removes ambiguity and points of contention, especially if a few people are making the decision.

The SMART Goal structure is a handy tool for answering this question. It forces you to be specific and challenge what you’re trying to achieve.

Further diversifying the farm’s income is a long-term play for us. We are making plans for the next 10 to 15 years. We have some financial and other targets that we need to achieve.

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Step 2: Write your selection criteria

You need to set selection criteria before you narrow a list down to a few chosen options. That might seem obvious. However, when your mind is dazzled by a long list of ideas, you can easily forget or overlook this step.

Align your selection criteria with the outcome that you want to achieve.

Sean and I own a farm because we love the life it brings us. It is a challenging way of life that demands our commitment seven days a week. But, you rarely have to push us out the door to work on the farm.

  • We both thrive when we are outdoors,
  • enjoy interacting with animals and
  • seeing the fruits of our labour.

We also added the ratio of profitability to the physical effort required to the list. We want to work smarter, not harder while earning more income.

And we want to have the flexibility to travel for long periods and know that the farm is in safe hands. Options that increase the farm’s dependence on us will drop out of the race.

Step 3: Prioritise your selection criteria

Investing time and effort into this stage will reap rewards in the next. You’ll find it much easier to choose the best option and feel more confident about your decision.

When a group of people are making the decision, it’s vital to negotiate the prioritisation. Gaining agreement will often need a lot of discussion and iteration. In my 20 years of business consulting, it was one of the most challenging tasks I had to achieve.

I recommend creating a draft list using logic and what seems obvious. Then, pressure-test it with potential scenarios. I use formulas like:

  • If we say X and Y are our top criteria, are we okay with sacrificing Z?
  • Would we make the same decision if someone came to us with Z x 10?

In our first draft, lifestyle factors were at the top of the list. Factors required to achieve that lifestyle, such as profitability, came next.

I then pressure-tested the first draft using the above formulas.

  • If we say interacting with animals and being outdoors are our top criteria, are we okay if that means we can only have one week’s holiday each year?
  • What if someone offered us a contract that would generate ten times our current income, but it meant no more working with animals or being outdoors?

Testing assumptions pushed flexibility higher up the list than I initially considered. It also helped sharpen details. For example, we had to clarify the timeframes involved when we say “travel for long periods”.

Step 4: Prune the options list

Now is the time to compare your options to your criteria and see what falls out.

You might finish with one stellar option that meets all the criteria and shines above all others. Or a handful of possibilities may remain.

If you need one but have a few, tighten your criteria.

A handful of great options can work well if you have a long time frame like us.

We noticed that there were common threads among our shortlisted ideas. They had similar implications for farm improvements during the next five years, such as improving vehicle access, water security, and bio-security. We will focus on those initiatives for now and see where that lands us further down that track.

A little sweat delivers a confident decision

Of course, other ways exist to choose an option from a long list. You could write each one on a strip of paper and pull them out of a hat. Flipping a coin also works, as does closing your eyes and throwing a dart. Then, there’s the gut instinct method.

These methods are time-efficient and fun. But your decision resolve will dissolve as quickly as you made it.

The method I’ve stepped you through takes time and effort but reaps the rewards. You’ll feel confident, trust your rationale, and focus on progress rather than second-guessing your decision.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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