The Death of Big Ideas– Greatest Threat to Any Organization: Old Ways of Thinking That Don’t Work Any More…

The big idea is dead; long live the big idea: For over 50 years, delivering the ‘big idea’ has been ultimate goal for creative business. According to David Ogilvy; you will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas... Big ideas are omnipresent innovation that redefined an industry, disrupt markets, changed popular culture…

According to Nicholas Bester; some of the most memorable big ideas are the foundation of great companies that are built on, e.g.;  Apple challenged to ‘Think Different’ and won the hearts and imagination of the creatively inclined… Nike told us to ‘Just do it’, then Michael Jordan did it, and as a result so did we… The California Milk Board asked us to ‘Got Milk?’ so we went out and got it…

The big idea is a tag-line, a story or singular concept which servers many purposes. It captures universal human truth or inspiration… It shocks its audience and delivers memorable images and one-liners. Big ideas have never been easy to uncover, but it was certainly easier for an idea to become ‘big’ in an era with limited media and limited access to information and content: A pre-Internet and pre-social media era…

So the question: In today’s digital age are big ideas still achievable? Has the proliferation of media channels and consumer advocacy debunked the notion of homogeneous truths, concepts, images that big ideas are built on… According to Megan Garber; the big idea is becoming, steadily, less big… in the age of the Internet and social media there are more choice for consumers, which means that it’s a fractured environment for everyone, and a more idea-hostile environment for the culture at large...

According to Kevin Roberts; the big idea is dead. There are no more big ideas and leaders should go for getting many small ideas… According to Edward Boches; perhaps it’s not so much that the big idea is no longer needed, it’s that we need many more different kinds of ideas because we can’t reach the masses with just one…

According to Bradley Moore; due to the rise of digital age, the big idea is becoming a thing of the past. At the very least, it’s time to rethink this notion of the big idea and embrace the era of the ‘long’ idea… We need small ideas built around a long idea that deliver value in the form of utility, education, entertainment, community…

Success in digital age won’t be measured by a big idea’s ability to be all things to everyone, but rather by how they allow business to do more, and be more for consumers and societies within which they exist. Big ideas need to be creative and engaging as they have always been, but now they also must be interactive and accountable…

In the book Tyranny of Dead Ideas by Matt Miller writes: What’s the greatest threat to the economic future? There the things we think we know, but don’t… Three facts are now poised to shape the economic life for a generation:

  • First; due to global competition and rapid technological change, the world economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a century…
  • Second; political and business leaders are doing next to nothing to prepare to cope with what lies ahead…
  • Third; the reason for inaction is that the entire economic and political culture remains in thrall to a set of ‘dead ideas’ about how a modern economy should work…

The trouble is we’re not doing what we need to do because of the ‘tyranny of dead ideas’. By this is meant the tacit assumptions and ingrained instincts broadly shared by business executives, policy makers, media observers, and other opinion leaders regarding the way a wealthy and advanced economy should work. And therein lies the dilemma; from the halls of government to the executive suite, from the corner store to the factory floor, many leaders are in the grip of a set of traditional ideas that are not only dubious but dead wrong…

The persistence of traditional dead ideas generally involves a failure to adapt to new circumstances, a recurring feature of human thought and behavior…  In this anxious environment, when traditional alternatives seem exhausted, we need a new way of thinking. In that sense, these outworn concepts are part of a broader phenomenon that afflicts every organization and each of us as individuals…

It’s the blind spots bred by complacency or arrogance or certitude or habit that fill the obituaries of civilizations, organizations, businesses that didn’t make it… It’s the things we think we know (but don’t) that are the chief obstacles to success in nearly every endeavor… However, the true measure of a person, an organization, or a society isn’t the dead ideas we fall prey to; it’s whether we can summon the perspective and imagination to recognize the dead ideas in our midst, and bury them before real damage, or more damage, is done…

In the article Size Still Matters Big Ideas Aren’t Dead by Martin Weigel writes: It’s become fashionable in some quarters to sneer at the notion of the ‘big idea’… The ‘big idea Is dead’ argument is borne of the careless use of language; indeed as some businesses start talking about ideas, you can be fairly guaranteed that some half-baked befuddled nonsense is going to follow... It’s an argument that looks at the world solely through the lens of execution and expenditure. It assumes that ‘big-ness’ lies solely in high cost execution or big investment…

Whatever some might say, big ideas are not dead– because we still benefit from them. Even if they’re not necessarily brought to life through epic execution and media… Big ideas connect with what matters to people. If you want people to notice you, care about you, have strong feelings about you, if you want to stir people’s hearts and minds, be impervious to the offers of competitors, and keep coming back to you, week-in-week-out, or year-in-year-out, then it helps to connect with something pretty compelling… Big ideas create mental monopolies, they are the competition for memory and preference… big ideas push aside competitors.

Big ideas ensure that we are not continuously reinventing the wheel, that we don’t constantly reset the clock to zero, and just think about the continuous improvement theory– that each action is build on each other… Big Ideas ensure that however diverse actions might be, they are coherent enough to build long-term associations in memory… Big ideas ensure that we don’t merely limp from tactic-to-tactics… Sustainable value is created by bid ideas that ensure the creation of long-term economic success…

Big-ness is first and foremost an imperative for a successful business strategy. Without a powerful, organizing idea that drives the business forward deliberately; a world of chaos and pain awaits us. The rhetoric of small risks reduces ourselves to a bunch of illiterates and short-term tacticians, denying ourselves opportunities to be anything more valuable or influential…

So ignore all the chatter about ‘big being dead’… Find an idea that connects with what matters to people. One that has real resonance and inspiration, then bring it to life in the most appropriate and imaginative way. Whether that’s through big execution or small steps. According  to Mark Twain; the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated…