Innovation, Leadership, Management, Project Management, Strategy

Big ideas vs Little ideas

Would you rather have one great big idea or tons of little ideas?

Me?  I’m fond of having a lot of little ideas.

Why?  Little ideas are easier to understand, easier to fund and easier to implement. Little ideas can be brought to life with less effort when compared  to the great big idea.  A bunch of little ideas can add up to much more than one great big idea.

Mark Howell over at Strategy Central blogged about a very insightful post by David Armano titled “Unconventional Marketing” that helped me visualize the big ideas vs little ideas approach.

Armano’s idea of Unconventional Marketing mirrors the idea of agility that I’m fond of.  This unconventional marketing  approach allows for small marketing ‘strategies’ and rapid iterations.    Armano uses a great diagram to describe his ideas where he compares a conventional marketing model with an unconventional.

The conventional marketing model  takes a big strategy and runs it through the process…he calls this the ‘big ideas, big bang launch and big budgets’ approach. The Unconventional marketing model takes a different approach.  Armano dubs this the ‘micro strategy, big insights, rapid iterations’ approach.

I absolutely love the unconventional approach.  With this approach you can make course corrections quickly if your strategy isn’t quite right.  You develop your strategy, jump into the development phase, gather insights into how you are doing and adjust as needed until you reach your goal(s).

Think about big ideas vs little ideas like this:

Your ‘big idea’ is to create world peace.  You start thinking about how to reach this goal.  And you think and think.  You pour your heart and soul into developing a plan for world peace. You talk to people and gather other ‘big ideas’.  You research and document endlessly.  You try to figure out how to get in front of world leaders.  If you’re lucky, your hard work might pay off…perhaps you get in front of some important people.  But will your plan succeed?  Perhaps.

Instead of taking the ‘big idea’ approach, why not start with a few little ideas.  What if your idea was to create a more meaningful and peaceful life for your family and your neighbors?  Why now try and create create peace and tranquility within your neighborhood?  That’s something that can be easily conceptualized…and then you can move further into other neighborhoods.  Eventually your ideas could take root throughout your city. By starting small, you’ve created much more than a ‘plan’…you’ve created something real.  You’ve created something that can be replicated easily by other people.

This approach will allow you to start with small ideas and move on them.  It is usually much easier to come up with a bunch of small ideas than to come up with the “one big idea”….if you wait until you get your “big idea”, you may never start…or finish.

There are many who would argue that BIG ideas are more important and more meaningful.  I disagree.  Of course, a BIG idea that has merit and is achievable is worth noting and is worth pursuing. That said, don’t let the chase for the BIG idea get in the way of achieving the little ideas…these little ideas can deliver outstanding results.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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PM Hut
15 years ago

That’s an excellent post Eric! 2 things:

– An idea taking more than a month is not worth your time
– An idea that keeps changing (in your mind) is also not worth your time

In this time and age, there are IT projects getting finished in 2 days (in a weekend), and that’s the whole process, not just the implementation phase.

PM Hut´s last blog post is: Preventing Scope Inflation


[…] speaking of ideas, please stop over to see Eric Brown’s discussion of the various sizes they come in – and which of them may turn out to be the best […]

A Coffey
15 years ago

Your point about little ideas is spot on, and I think that's because you can be agile and make adjustments to smaller strategies, goals and action steps than with larger ones: a point you did mention, and I can appreciate. In fact, this post inspired me to blog about it shortly.