Where’s your next great idea?


Guest post by Gerhard Gschwandtner

Gerhard is the founder of Selling Power magazine and host of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Join him at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, on March 7-8. Use code hmktgs2c and get a special $300 discount on registration.

Over the course of three decades, I’ve interviewed some of the most successful leaders and experts in sales, business, sports, entertainment, and politics, including Mary Kay Ash, Marc Benioff, Michael Dell, George Foreman, Seth Godin, Jay Leno, Bill Marriott, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Colin Powell. And as host of four industry conferences (the Sales 2.0 Conference and the Sales Leadership Conference) throughout the year, I have the privilege of being in almost constant contact with successful sales and marketing executives from top-level companies.

What I’ve noticed about high achievers is that they all live in pursuit of their next great idea. They have a vision for leadership and constantly look for insights that can take them to the next level.

We live in a culture obsessed with efficiency, in which we fill every waking moment with work. But sometimes it’s our time away from work that allows us to do the best thinking. Thinking produces ideas, and ideas produce progress. If history serves as a guide, we can easily recognize that the five billion people on this planet owe all technological progress to a few thousand people who have gone before us and produced thoughts that turned out to be better for everybody: Einstein’s theory of relativity; Edison’s light bulb; Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.

When National Cash Register Company founder John Henry Patterson tried to improve his organization’s productivity, he concluded that productive work is a result of productive thinking. To encourage thinking in his company, before staff meetings Patterson wrote the word “think” on flip charts. Since he noticed people’s positive responses to the word, he had signs printed with the simple message, “Think.” One hundred years ago, these signs appeared in NCR offices worldwide. Patterson’s sales manager, Thomas J. Watson, didn’t forget the memorable word when he left the National Cash Register Company to found IBM. Today, thousands of IBM executives are still exhorted to “think.”

Harvey Firestone once said, “Thought, not money, is the real business capital.” Firestone’s entire business was founded on the idea of producing a tire that would add safety and speed to Henry Ford’s model T.

One great idea can change millions of lives. Where will your next great idea come from?