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5 Ways to Validate a Business Idea, Right Now

Don't let your day job or lack of capital stop you from finding and testing a business idea. Here's how.
Last year, I embarked upon a personal challenge to validate a business idea in 30 days. To make it even more difficult, it was a random idea chosen by my readers. They asked me to do it without using my existing website, traffic and business connections and without spending more than 20 hours per week on the project. On top of that, I limited myself to spending no more than $500 validating this idea. The experiment was a success.In just two weeks, I built an email list of 565 subscribers without having an actual website. Then, I reached out to a handful of those subscribers and pre-sold 12 copies of a book that didn't even exist yet, all in less than 30 days. I wrote about the experiment in real-time with in-depth weekly updates, successes, failures and lessons learned along the way, right here in my validation challenge. Today, I want to share with you the five most effect…

10 Traits of Innovative Leaders

Many organizations would like their leaders to create more innovative teams. But how exactly should they do this? If you ask highly innovative leaders what makes them effective you are apt to hear, “Well, I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.” Or they will make something up that sounds compelling. But the fact of the matter is that people who excel at something aren’t usually very good at pinpointing exactly what accounts for their skill.
So to find out more, we conducted our own study. We began by collaborating with a respected organization in the telecommunications industry whose leaders scored well above average on most managerial competencies. We identified 33 individuals who scored at or above the 99th percentile on innovation, as measured by their peers, subordinates, and bosses in a comprehensive 360-degree feedback survey.  We believed these closest colleagues would have the most accurate view of what made this group of leaders stand out from the pack in this large organization.
Then we interviewed each leader by phone, together with the leader’s boss and a number of direct reports and peers, to ask for concrete examples of what the leader did that caused him or her to be perceived as highly innovative. The colleagues were also asked how this leader differed from other leaders they’d served.

When we combined the interviews with the 360-degree feedback, 10 distinctive behaviors emerged that set this group apart as innovation leaders. They are listed here in descending order of importance. These leaders:

Display excellent strategic vision. The most effective innovation leaders could vividly describe their vision of the future, and as one respondent noted about his boss: “She excelled at painting a clear picture of the destination, while we worked to figure out how to get there.”

Have a strong customer focus. What was merely interesting to the customer became fascinating to these individuals. They sought to get inside the customer’s mind. They networked with clients and asked incessant questions about their needs and wants.

Create a climate of reciprocal trust. Innovation often requires some level of risk. Not all innovative ideas are successful. These highly innovative leaders initiated warm, collaborative relationships with the innovators who worked for them. They made themselves highly accessible. Colleagues knew that their leader would cover their backs and not throw them under the bus if something went wrong. People were never punished for honest mistakes.

Display fearless loyalty to doing what’s right for the organization and customer. Pleasing the boss or some other higher level executive always took a back seat to doing the right thing for the project or the company.

Put their faith in a culture that magnifies upward communication. These leaders believed that the best and most innovative ideas bubbled up from underneath. They strived to create a culture that uncorked good ideas from the first level of the organization. They were often described as projecting optimism, full of energy, and always receptive to new ideas. Grimness was replaced with kidding and laughter.

Are persuasive. These individuals were highly effective in getting others to accept good ideas. They did not push or force their ideas onto their teams. Instead, they presented ideas with enthusiasm and conviction, and the team willingly followed.

Excel at setting stretch goals. These goals required people to go far beyond just working harder. These goals required that they find new ways to achieve a high goal.

Emphasize speed. These leaders believed that speed scraped the barnacles off the hull of the boat. Experiments and rapid prototypes were preferred to lengthy studies by large committees.

Are candid in their communication. These leaders were described as providing honest, and at times even sometimes blunt, feedback. Subordinates felt they could always count on straight answers from their leader.

Inspire and motivate through action. One respondent said, “For innovation to exist you have to feel inspired.” This comes from a clear sense of purpose and meaning in the work.

While this is admittedly an investigation into a single company, this group’s 360-degree feedback data are consistent with our analysis of highly innovative leaders in hundreds of other organizations in industries as varied as automotive, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products and from all parts of the globe. This suggests to us that these conclusions describe highly innovative individuals in all industries, as well as from different cultures throughout the world.

Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman

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