Turning Ideas Into Reality

J.K. Galbraith stated that “we are ruled by ideas and by very little else”. Ideas are always in demand. It is one thing that people are drawn to, and there is never a shortage of ideas. However, the situation is not as simple when we try to make ideas reality.

J.K. Galbraith is as famous for his contribution to economic thought as he is for offering one of the best ever insights into ‘conventional wisdom’. Many decades after he first wrote about conventional wisdom (he lived a long and very productive life), he continued to hold the same views on the topic, which says a lot coming from a great thinker who was happy to change his mind when confronted with facts.

Over the years I have, like most people, sought new ideas and tried different strategies to make them work. Things changed a lot when I started to pay close attention to the principles of Galbraith. Things made more sense after I  correlated his thinking with the research and practice of behaviourists (behavioural economics).

We are surrounded by outcomes which started out as ideas. It is apparent that many great ideas never get out of attic, while some not so original nor clever ideas become reality; and at times expensive ones at that.

So, in an attempt to work out a way to translate ideas into practice, I developed the ‘Conventional Wisdom Cycle’ (CWC), which interprets my understanding of Galbraith’s insights. To explain how it all works I designed the following infographic, which I still use regularly with my clients (strategic planning etc.), as well as when I work on a specific project or coach a client wanting to convert an idea into a product/service. It feels great when a client uses the CWC successfully. Naturally, there is more detail that goes with this infographic, however with a bit of focus, together with a strongly recommended reading of J.K. Galbraith’s work, it should all make sense.


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2 replies »

  1. How to apply the Conventional Wisdom Cycle

    What I find particularly accessible about your Conventional Wisdom Cycle info graphic is the Familiarity Test 3.

    Firstly Understanding:
    One way I’ve experienced success with the idea pitch be it internally with my colleagues, amongst familiar or near networks or unknown target stakeholders is to……

    + appeal to the known to express the new.

    To borrow from the “content marketing vogue” or even the old world copy-writing techniques this could be the Like Chicken But Different.

    This approach certainly has merit for you when you’re establishing new or abstract ideas within established cultural networks.

    The idea’s function needs to speak to the particular problem of the group, community or individual. Understanding the target’s key concerns should be part of this approach for your idea to float and be relevant.

    And lastly Kudos,
    I believe this is the game breaker for many a great idea. I’ve this mental picture of Kudos as a continuum from pro/positive benefit or harming- risk mitigation. In my experience acceptance and action is inclined if there is a strong appeal to either end of the continuum.

    If you’re like most executives you are likely to respond to extreme benefit as well as ideas which pose extreme harm. The kudos fallow lands in between are not likely to engender acceptance and action. This situation is not for the idea’s lack of merit. It just isn’t going to cut through the emotional clutter.

    Lastly, and most importantly great post and thanks for your interpretation and extension of Gilbraith’s work.

    Top work Jelenko and keep them coming

    David Norris

    • Many thanks David,

      I also like the kudos part and agree how often that is overlooked. The idea of linking familiarity with truth is also explored in greater detail by Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner in Economics. He frames it in the context of cognitive ease/strain.

      I am working on a few more similar ideas.
      Very Best

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