The evolution of an idea – why the learning never stops

Those who don’t change, get left behind. 

That old saying is true for a lot of things – including thought leadership. 

Over the years at Intelligent Ink, we’ve learned a lot about ideas and how they develop. We’ve come to realise that changing (or evolving, anyway!) your ideas isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary. If you aren’t challenging, reflecting on, and improving your ideas, they’re going to get stale – and you won’t stay ahead of your field.

The lessons we learned

We used to think you should create an offering, make it perfect, put it out to market, and leave it as is. But it wasn’t until we let go of the need to make something perfect that we really discovered how powerful constant improvement can be.

Take our workshops – one (Seeking Your Story) started out as a taste tester for our clients. We did it for free, and treated it as more of a sales tool. But we found that each time, we kept wanting to deliver more for clients. We were getting so much from people that it felt like such a waste not to take the thinking and impact further to develop really strong messaging across the board.

Then there’s our Roadmapping your Reputation workshops. They used to be an add-on – essentially a communications calendar to add to the messaging built in Seeking Your Story. Over the last year though, it’s become something quite different – a roadmap for our clients to build their authority, helping them strategically decide what and what not to focus on.

Through the development of those offerings, we learned a few things, like:

  1. There’s no end point to an offering

If you’re trying to reach an end goal with your offerings, your ideas are going to get stale quickly. An offering’s life should be endless, and you should be giving it the time and opportunity to constantly improve. An offering can – and should – change ten times over (like our workshops!). Not only will your offerings be better, but you can also charge more for the greater impact you’ll have.

Keep in mind though, constant change isn’t necessarily ideal for your overarching model or framework. Once you’ve developed a strong and clear framework (think Simon Sinek’s Start With Why or Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits), that should stay pretty consistent. After all, you don’t want to sell someone on the power of five steps only for them to discover there are three more they’ve missed later. 

However, you can keep improving the way that you explore each part of your framework, and continuously make your offerings more effective for people who want to follow your framework.

  1. Thought leadership has endless lives

A great idea will have endless opportunities for improvement and expansion.

Plenty of clients come to us with fantastic ideas that are great for thought leadership, but they aren’t utilising them to their fullest potential. Instead of just using an idea to create one piece of content or one workshop, why not take it further? Any offering can be altered to be put in front of a wider audience, whether through a webinar, a blog, or a podcast appearance. 

It’s also hugely beneficial to work on offerings so that they’re not reliant on just you. A framework or model that someone else can use and deliver means you’ve got the ability to scale and elevate your thought leadership impact. Even better, consider how you can commoditise that idea (perhaps into a course or keynote speech) so that you’re not just trading time for money. 

  1. Things are always a work in progress – sometimes you’ve just got to sell it

With an endless thinking process and no clear end point, an offering might never feel absolutely perfect. But like bidding farewell to your first-born child when they move out of home, sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and let it go out into the world. 

When we updated our Roadmapping your Reputation workshop, it wasn’t anywhere near finished before we sold it. In fact, we sold it to two clients (albeit at a lower price than it is now) before we were even sure what the output would look like. When you’ve got a deadline, you’ll be forced to figure stuff out – even if it doesn’t feel 100% ready. And it’s in those moments that you learn the most. From those first initial workshops, we knew what to work on and how to improve our offering, but we were also pleasantly surprised with how well it went when we were just forced to put something together. 

The value in changing your ideas

You never stop learning. You are constantly absorbing new information, ideas, and inspiration – so why wouldn’t you put all of that goodness into your content and offerings? A great thought leader is open to new thinking because it’ll sharpen their positioning and elevate their impact. 

No-one stays the same – especially not thought leaders!