The other day I invited a good acquintance to come and visit us at inQvation and to provide feedback on an idea, we’re toying with. The latter part made sense given that this person has about 30 years of experience within the industry, where our idea potentially offers a new angle on things.
I asked him to talk straight from the gut and tell me what he thought. And his first words resonated deeply: “Ideally speaking this idea is great. Unfortunately, the world – and this industry is not ideal”. And then he went on to provide amazing feedback on potential blind spots and pitfalls based on his wealth of experience, we hadn’t considered at all, and which proves to be critical hypothesis, we need to spend time trying to find a workaround for. Otherwise our idea will tank.
When we said goodbye he apologized for being so candid. But I insisted he shouldn’t and that this was the best feedback we could get at this point in time. Because it showed us some of the potential blind spots we would have essentially zero chance of figuring out on our own. And that is a god sent. Because the blind spots – left unattended – are the ones that could end up killing your idea and/or business.
Greg Satell makes a very important point when arguing that even the best ideas cant’ make it on their own – they all need an ecosystem to thrive. Without they risk losing out to lesser ideas properly seeded through various channels. And that is – often – a real shame.
The point is worth mentioning because a lot of people with great ideas are very protective of them. For one, they fear someone will steal their idea, while in reality there are most probably already at least one or two competing teams working on the same thing somewhere in the world. Second, they want the most possible ownership to the idea, fully forgetting that it’s better to have 50 percent of a winner than 100 percent of a loser.
From all my experience in working with partnerships and – by extension – ecosystems, it seems to me that people still don’t really ‘get’ it when it comes to creating win-win relationships. If you start to think about it, it is a scary amount of potential value creation that gets left on the table every single day.
Some ideas intuitively makes sense. Other ideas seem just about the most stupid thing, you have ever heard of. Yet, while the former can go on and become a viable idea, the dumb idea more often than not end up making a killing.
Andrew Chen calls it “The Dumb Idea Paradox”. I would just suffice to say it is a pointed reminder of one of the core guiding principles I have; you just can’t sit at your desk and expect to figure out the next big thing. You need to go out there, be curious and – as part of that process – challenge your own assumptions.
For some people betting on dumb ideas is the thing that they do. Maybe they just do it once, but it will be all that matters, once the idea takes off. For the rest of us, we need to tell ourselves that “no idea is that dumb” again and again while giving it enough benefit of the doubt to at least experiment and play with. Because, more often than not, no idea really is that dumb.
*: Of course there are really dumb ideas out there, and most of us intuitively know what they are. So there are exceptions to the rule, but expect the rule to be the rule.
Should the person who comes up with an idea also be the one who straight out of the blocks evaluate its desirability, feasibility and viability? Probably not due to the obvious risk of bias. It is also why we have some tools for ideation and another set of tools for assessment and validation.
The really funny thing about the article in Harvard Business Review though is the finding that companies tend to put an excess value on ‘ideas’ presented by the upper tiers in the organization, while ideas from the floor tend to be oversold and thus often not really gets taken under consideration. It is actually thought provoking when you think a bit about it.
It seems like a big potential loss. Experience shows that the closer people get to the problem through their day-to-day jobs, the more valuable ideas for improvements they come up with. Somebody in upper management should apply their sales skills to help the people downstream sell their valuable ideas the right way.
Today marks a truly exciting new chapter in my professional life as I embark on a new role as Head of Studio at InQvation in Taastrup on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Together with the greatest colleagues, you can imagine, I will be running experiments on ideas for new businesses with the goal of validating them enough to enable us to build great companies with strong teams set for success.
I will be utilizing all my passion and experience from developing and validating concepts and business models, and I look so much forward to this insanely cool challenge.