5 Ways to Kill a Great Idea Fast! And How to Avoid Them!
October 17, 2007
1. Neglect writing it down.
Unfortunately, many great ideas die mere seconds after they’re conceived simply because they were never captured in the first place. This is understandable when we consider how our brains generate creative ideas.
Creativity begins in the right hemisphere of the brain. The right brain becomes most active when we’re engaged in activities that require spatial (No, that’s not a reference to SNL’s Church Lady) perception. These activities include walking, cleaning, showering, exercising, driving, mowing the yard, etc. That means the creative juices really start flowing at the most inconvenient times to write stuff down.
For instance, I always think of the best ideas (if I do say so myself) while driving to or from work. That’s an inconvenient time to try witting things down. That being the case, the simplest solution I’ve found for capturing ideas while driving is using my mobile phone to leave myself a message about the idea. Since I have a wireless headset and voice dialing, it’s quick, easy, and safe. Yes, calling yourself is kind of silly, but it works!
2. Over aggressive self-editing.
Self editing is an admirable quality, but one that requires balance. How many inventions do you suppose don’t exist today, because the would-be inventor prematurely gave up on pursuing his/her idea? Don’t let self doubt or fear of failure keep you from exploring your great ideas. Like the old expression states, “It’s better to try and fail than to never try at all.”
Thomas Edison believed he failed his way to success. If it weren’t for him we’d never have had the light bulb, motion picture camera, or the phonograph (that was the original 8-track player, right?). But Edison didn’t get it right every time. Did you know he had an obsession with cement? He built all kinds of stuff using cement, including a piano! It was probably the piano movers who kept that idea from catching on. But it was Edison’s determination to keep testing his ideas that lead to the creation of over 1000 patents!
3. Broadcast it to the wrong audience.
It can be quite helpful to “test” great ideas by getting the opinions of others. However, know your audience! Have you ever heard the adage, “Never cast your pearls before swine”? There’s nothing worse than being excited about a great idea, only to have other’s quickly dismiss your idea as idiotic or impossible. Even the most self confident person might be tempted to abandon a great idea just because some moron with a big mouth made them doubt the validity of their idea.
Don’t waste great ideas on people who won’t appreciate them. Hey, we all need “editors” to help us decide which ideas to pursue, and which ones to drop. But the drunk at the corner bar may not be your best bet. When it comes to seeking the advice of others, stick with people whose opinion you trust and respect.
4. Postpone getting started.
Procrastination is the fastest way to kill a great idea SLOWLY. That’s because “tomorrow” has a sneaky way of becoming never. When it comes to implementing great ideas, having an extreme sense of urgency is your best approach.
Remember that having a great idea is only the first step of the creative process. The best way to get something done is to begin. Maybe you have a whopper of a great idea, and getting started seems extremely overwhelming. Well then, it’s time to start brainstorming and deciding what the next step should be. When prioritizing big projects, it’s the next step that matters most.
Question: How do you eat an entire elephant? Answer: One bite at a time!” Ok, so I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to eat an elephant in most countries, but you get the idea. Planning is essential, but you can’t anticipate everything (it’s still good practice to try), but at some point it’s time to get started.
5. Suffer from the Paralysis of Analysis.
As Steven Covey explains in his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one should always begin with the end in mind. That’s a great reminder that well thought-out planning is essential to the success of any endeavor. However, be on guard that over planning doesn’t creep in and bring your progress to a screeching halt.
It’s OK for ideas to morph and grow. But definitely evaluate if these “enhancements” are really adding value to your idea. Make sure you haven’t allowed tangents to distract you from your main goal – your great idea!
What’s a good way to maintain focus and determination in the planning phase? Remembering that perfection is the enemy of good enough! If you become obsessive with having to have everything “just right”, your ideas will likely never make it out of the lab. The cycle should always be plan/start/finish, not wait/plan/plan.