From Ideas To Actions
It all starts with an idea. A spark of inspiration that sets your thoughts in motion. Maybe the idea is very solid in your mind right away, but maybe it is not more than a shadow that is hard to grasp. Having an idea is the first step, but there are four steps to consider before the idea takes shape and can be put into action.
Step 1: SET THE AIM
The first step is to think about why you want to do something or what exactly sparked your idea. What is your motivation? Did you encounter a problem and want to find a solution? Do you want to improve a situation?
Try the PROBLEM TREE analysis either alone or in a group. You need a pen & paper, maybe a big one like a flipchart or poster if you are working with others. Write the problem or a keyword of what you want to improve in the middle of the paper. It is the trunk of the tree. Next, start collecting the causes of your problem, everything that influences your issue. Write these terms below the stem, because they are the roots of the problem. In a third step, start writing down the consequences and effects of your problem above the trunk, because they represent branches and leaves. Now you have a complete picture of what you want to work on and decide on a concrete aim that works on the root of the problem.
Step 2: GENERATE THE IDEAS
Now you have set an aim. It is time to find out how you can reach it. There are a few methods you can try and you can do them alone or as a group activity with others.
The quickest and easiest is a BRAINSTORMING. You only need a pen & paper and can do it alone or with others. Write the aim in the middle or on top of your paper and start collecting all ideas that come to mind. Do not judge or criticise them yet or make any decisions, just collect as many ideas as possible in any order. You can set a time limit or come back to the brainstorming multiple times and add some new ideas.
A more organised way is the MIND MAP, because it connects key words with each other, and clusters related things with each other. To start, write the aim in the middle of a sheet of paper. Start thinking about the main related themes and write down the keywords close to your aim in the middle of the paper. Each keyword will spark more related ideas, which you can write down near the initial keyword. In the end, you have a system of ideas, connected by branches that meet in the middle in your key problem.
A fun and social idea-generating method are the THINKING HATS. It is recommended in a group of 6 persons. There are six hats, each has its own colour and represents a certain way of thinking:
Step 3: CHECK THE FACTS
You have collected ideas and before you decide to put them into action, you should find out if they are practical and realistic. You should RESEARCH the potential by looking up if your idea has been done before, what you need to put it into action and also how if there are regulations in place you have to respect. EVALUATE available resources: do you have enough persons, budget, time, and materials? How much do you need? ANALYSE your social and physical environment. Who is impacted by your plan? Who will benefit or feel any other consequences? These persons or organisations are your stakeholders and it is recommended to get their feedback before you start implementing your plan.
You can also do a SWOT ANALYSIS to gain a fuller picture of your idea. Divide a page into 4 sections and title them: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Now, analyse your idea in these four areas.
Step 4: PLAN THE ACTION
Great! Your idea has the potential to be put into action. Now it is time to make a plan for how you can best do that. Think about who will be part of the process as well as when and where you want it all to happen. Sometimes your goal seems very far away and the way there is almost overwhelming. Help yourself by setting MILESTONES along the way, which are smaller aims you can reach and you can use to structure your tasks. To gain an overview of the time available and needed, note down the deadlines and important time frames of your plan. If you are working towards a fixed date, start from there and work your way backward to the current day. You can create a GANTT CHART very easily. Make a chronological list of your milestones and tasks, ideally digitally in Excel or Google Tables. You can also do it on cross-section paper by hand. Then, make columns for months (or weeks and days, depending on how much time you have). Colour the time needed for a task in the time columns. For example, if task A takes 2 weeks, colour two weeks in the row for task A. Task B takes 1 week, so you colour one week in the row for task B, but start in the column of week 3. Continue until you reach the deadline.
Finally, you are ready to start bringing your idea to life. If you are working together with others, set up a communication plan that helps you keeping an overview of all involved persons. Note the meetings you want to hold and the preferred communication channels, for example email or WhatsApp. You can also note who you want to inform about your idea and how, for example, do you plan to promote your idea publicly and/or online? Keep your stakeholders up-to-date with your progress and let them know when you have reached your aim.
Good luck and all the best for your future plans!