According to Strengths Finder, I’m a “Learner.”  Which means that I thrive in an environment where I get to learn and grow.

In fact, sometimes the process of learning is more exciting to me than the outcome.  Weird, I know.  Don’t judge me.

A few years back, I stepped into the role of small groups pastor at Grace Community Church.  I had never been a small groups pastor before.  I knew little to nothing about small groups.  My past experience had been primarily with Sunday School.  And my work in ministry had been primarily with people younger than me.  I was in over my head.

But the prospect of learning a new skill, a new philosophy, gave me great energy.  Maybe my process of learning, growing, and sharing can help you with your idea.

I get much more done through collaboration than working on my own.  Here’s how I do it:

Build communities–>compile ideas–>implement locally–>compile ideas–>build communities

Build communities. Reach far and wide.  Even outside of your normal circle.  Talk with people in unrelated fields.   At some level, innovation is innovation. And there’s something you can learn from Coca Cola, even if you’re in the business of selling cars.  Skip this step and you’ll box yourself in to small ideas.

Compile ideas with a smaller group. This is industry-specific. Find the leading thought generators in your industry, and start picking their brain. Learn from them. Try to understand why they do what they do. What successes are they having?   What failures have they experienced?  These people may not be implementing concepts exactly like you would…mainly because only you are in your context.  Skip this step and you’ll miss the learning from industry leaders.

Implement locally with your team. Take the ideas, principles, stories, and innovations from the entire funnel and begin integrating them into your organizational structure.  This is where the hard work begins, in my opinion. It’s no longer about just generating ideas, and operating in the clouds of thought. This is where the rubber meets the road. And if you do the hard work necessary at this level, real change begins to happen.  Skip this step and you’ll have no credibility in your industry…and you’ll have done no real work.

Compile ideas. As you implement locally, you have something to offer to others in your field.  Continue to grow, expand, and effect change.  Others within your line of work, who are trying to do what you’re doing but are having a tough time getting results like you are, will take notice.  A word of advice at this level: share generously. Give away your knowledge, your stories, and your secrets.  The new wave of marketing, sales, and online social media is built on being generous with information and insights…not with hoarding that information.  You’ll get your payback, but it may not come in traditional forms. As you share with others in your field, you may gain coveted networking opportunities or even become a leader in your industry.  Other highly touted workers in the field may begin seeking you out as a place of employment.  Tangible results?  You bet.  Immediate?  Not a chance.  Skip this step and others in your industry who need your innovation will never see it.

Build communities. As you’ve implemented your strategy at the local and industry level, others outside of your industry will begin to take notice. Because, remember, innovation is innovation. Your strategy will likely work across multiple platforms. But you’ll never make it to this stage if you haven’t generously given of yourself and your time throughout the other stages.  We need your idea. But if you don’t work to build communities, networking even with people not like you, we’re never going to hear it.  Skip this step and your ideas and principles never leave your industry.

This is how I grew from knowing nothing about an industry (small groups) to sharing ideas globally.

Is your idea worth spreading virally?

If not, find a new idea.

Have you experienced influence at the “compiling ideas” level?  How about at the “Broad community” level?

Do you desire to share ideas globally?