Sometimes, the best achievements come from modest beginnings and the germ of an idea. Actually, from combining various “idea germs” and playing around with them until they click into place. The key is that you start germinating.

I recently read about an example of this in The Sunday Times Magazine.

The gist of the story is about how Bart Weetjens founded and now runs a charity that has cleared more than 10 million acres of land of explosive devices by using rats. Yes, rats.

What struck me in reading his story was that:

  • It combined various “idea germs”: his childhood hobby of raising rodents, his adult interest in helping clear landmines (inspired by a film on Princess Diana’s work in this area), and the insight later on that existing methods were too costly to implement in poverty-stricken regions where the need is also highest.
  • It required his leadership in taking that idea forward, spreading the word broadly (which I think of as “germination”), and persisting despite people thinking he was crazy about using rats rather than the latest technology.
  • His “germination” activity created pivotal moments that played a role in making things happen: his former professor mentioned the “rat project” to a development minister in Belgium who chose to back the idea.

Bart Weetjens started his charity Apopo in 1995 from humble beginnings as a 20-something with an idea, and now runs this 600 person (and 324 rat) organization based in six countries that is making a big impact. Pretty cool.

So, never underestimate the great achievements you can make by nurturing your idea, spreading your word widely, and persisting.

Whether it’s an idea for improving the way things get done at work or one that could save the world (or parts of it), these “idea germs” need to have some fresh air – to be taken around the block for a walk and to get some exposure.  So, don’t be shy.

And unless we’re talking about the formula for Coca-Cola or the equivalent, the days of keeping an idea completely under wraps until it’s time to launch it are history.

You’re better off testing it out and refining it rather than springing it on people fully formed (in fact, remember how New Coke didn’t quite work out).

So, do you have germs of an idea that you’ve put aside? Or maybe your children or friends or colleagues do?

Whether you’re the originator or an encourager, what’s a step you can take to help those germs of ideas see the light of day where they can grow to make a difference?