“New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!” – Arthur C. Clarke
Over the course of the last week I’ve been coming across multiple articles on the value of ideas.
There was this article that basically says ideas are random useless things with little value unless you commercialize them and then gives guidelines for implementing ideas.
Then there was this article that is not really about how to use ideas, but is about the development history of a system for washing clothes without using detergent. In the middle of the article there is the following quote (Note my italicized section):
The idea for EcoSafe grew out of conversation the three inventors had four years ago after watching a news report on a detergent-less washing system that turned out to be a flop. “We knew it was a scam, but we were amused by the whole idea,” says Briggs. “We were laughing about it, but I said to Eddie, ‘Is it possible to do laundry without using detergent?'”
So, where do I stand with regards to ideas?
The first two articles talk about commercializing ideas, using ideas to make money.
The third highlights a totally different aspect – an idea that was a flop led to success.
Ideas are not just about commercialization; they’re about inspiration, about seeding the mind. They’re the uniquely human fruit that begins to sprout the moment they’re free of our bodies. In this context, even a bad idea might turn out to be good…and a good idea might scare the pants off those in upper management.
“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” – Howard Aiken
Good ideas should be dangerous! For that matter, all ideas -even the bad ones- will be dangerous if people (and the culture) have a basic orientation towards innovation.
“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” – Oscar Wilde
So next time you’re trying to see if an idea will see the light of day and running it through a gamut of gates, try allowing yourself to be judged by the idea. Ask yourself, “What does this idea say about our company, our division, our people, about myself?” If it doesn’t inspire, if it doesn’t cause you to be knocked off guard, it may be less of an idea and more a harmless reflection of what you, and the market, already know.