IDEA CAMP: Week 3 – Idea Planning

Intro music “Honey” composed by NC State student Johnathan Coquedaire.

By Maria Gallardo-Williams

Podcast (transcript) Week 3 with David Woodbury (Department Head, Learning Spaces & Services) and Jason Evans Groth (Digital Media Librarian for Learning Spaces and Services), NC State Libraries

Welcome to the third week of Idea Camp, and thank you so much for your participation in the first two weeks! We are glad to have you with us, working on the ideas that you generated in Week 1 and refined on  Week 2 at your own pace, but as part of this summer professional development community. 

If you have been following us along you should have by now a nice and neat collection of ideas that have been refined and are ready for the next step. It might surprise you to know that it is at this stage when many ideas simply fade into oblivion. Why is that? In their book Ideation: The Birth and Death of Ideas, Graham and Bachman present the following reasons why some ideas never become realized: 

  • Lack of expertise
  • Lack of resources or engineering know-how
  • Lack of marketing expertise
  • Lack of financial resources

Other reasons mentioned are concerns that the idea will be stolen, and excessive bureaucracy. However, lacking pertinent expertise or resources are the main reasons why ideas don’t move into the execution phase. I was mulling this over when I came across the Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari and the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain) quote that I used to open this week’s podcast: 

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

How do we make sure that we move our ideas out of the shower (I feel quite seen here, because I get lots of great ideas in the shower) and make them into a reality? What does it take, at this stage of an idea’s life, to get others to invest in our idea so we can get the resources and the expertise we might be lacking? Well, that would depend on who you ask. 

You might have heard of Facebook founder’s Mark Zuckerberg’s now-famous motto: “Move fast and break things.” It was quite the movement in entrepreneurial circles for the past decade, but it seems that it has finally been falling out of fashion. Executing your ideas fast and dirty, without planning or forethought, or regard for the work of others is an untenable business practice. It might work once (and it sure did for Zuckerberg), but it will bring with it lack of public support for further initiatives. The same will happen in academic circles. 

Careful planning doesn’t sound as exciting, but it is the next logical step if you want to turn your idea into a reality (while being able to sleep at night and still have the support of your community). This is the week to take stock and ask yourself a few questions that might help to position your idea, plan the details, and get it ready for implementation. The first set of questions relates to the stage of your idea: 

1) What things relating to your idea are already done? This might include gathering background information, further refinement of your original idea, or alternative framing to make the idea more attractive to potential collaborators. 

2) What things are in progress? If you have started discussing this idea with others, or even if you just have refined the idea by yourself, you might have some action items that you are working on. Maybe you need more information, or to start drafting a timeline. Maybe you are trying to figure out what possible gaps in your own expertise exist that need to be filled in order to bring this idea across the finish line. 

3) What remains to be done? This list is probably quite long at this point, and that’s perfectly fine. As you work on your idea you will think of more things that are needed and the list might get even longer. In the planning stages this is exactly what you should be seeing.

Those three questions are at the core of most project management software offerings, such as Trello, which was mentioned in this week’s podcast. If you prefer a simpler way to keep track of things, you might want to try the planning organizer that Janet Del Pinal has created for us this week, which can be printed or used digitally. Our organizer contains one more question:

4) Who are the members of the team that will help you implement this idea? As you identify knowledge or expertise gaps, who will be the people or organizations that can help you fill them? Do you need research support? Time management and organizational skills? Digital expertise? One of the best things about working at such a large and diverse university is that if you need help, there is probably somebody on campus who can help you. The libraries can be a good place to start. You can visit their homepage and fill a form to request a consultation in different areas. If you are looking for teaching, learning, and academic leadership support, contact us at OFE ( and let us know how we can assist you. If your idea requires educational technology support, then DELTA might be able to help you in that arena. 

Don’t discount the support of family and friends. An accountability partner can be as helpful as a subject matter expert in making an idea into a reality, and may make things a lot more personal. A friend or family member can help you by keeping you accountable, just make sure to find a way to return the favor. I have baked many cookies over the years to thank neighbors who watched my kids or fixed my computer so I could plan and execute my ideas. Bartering skills is a form of collaboration that often gets overlooked. 

Remember to take time to find a place that inspires you during the planning process. You might appreciate the importance of a whiteboard at this stage, as mentioned in this week’s podcast. You can reserve a study room or a digital media space at any of our libraries (complete with whiteboards and great soundproofing – idea planning can get loud!). If you prefer to be outside, the Court of North Carolina on Main Campus offers tranquil vistas and shady spots, or you might want to visit Lake Raleigh if you are on Centennial Campus. 

This is the week to make sure that your ideas don’t fade away, so let’s get those plans in place,  and let us know if we can help you. You can leave us a comment (if you have an NC State id), or we will be following this conversation on Twitter at #NCStateIdeaCamp and you can join us there. Looking forward to hearing from you!


Three Steps to Execute a Successful Idea

Project management software (free): Trello

Printable of the Week: Planning document

Inspirational Campus Locations: