There are ideas and then there are great ideas. The difference between ‘ideas’ which we think of everyday and the occasional great idea, is that great ideas compel us to tell someone and take action. Whether it’s a new way to improve public transit or new method of understanding online customers, great ideas are dangerous for one reason: they change the status quo.
For many, status quo means doing what everyone else is. In other words, fitting in.
So why do people like to fit in? The saying “go with the flow,” is popular among the masses and refers to complying with the systems set in place. Perhaps it is the convenience of having a system established on how to do things or the idea of ‘blending in,’ but what we all need to remember is that fitting-in means that you are boring. Applying Seth Godin’s concept of “the purple cow,” individuals that choose to ‘go with the flow’ and make no effort to be ‘remarkable,’ are replaceable.
Bad Ideas Do Exist
In the ideal world, there are no bad ideas. Every idea would have the potential to lead to success and the word ‘bad’ would never be used in conjunction with ‘idea.’ Unfortunately, as we all know, bad ideas do exist. It’s inevitable and can’t be helped, but what exactly makes an idea bad? Is it not enough detail? Not thought out? While these are elements which need to be considered when developing an idea, we need to again look at the idea of changing the status quo.
An idea that can be described as outlandish, is not a bad idea. It’s an improbable idea. An improbable idea has little chance of getting past the drawing board and an even smaller chance of development. As opposed to an improbable idea, a bad idea is one that creates little to no value and either has been done or is already considered ‘used.’ For the millions of us who ‘go with the flow,’ saying that an idea is bad is simple and we think nothing of it. Bad ideas die by the millions, and great ideas scrounge for life. The goal is not to try and change the minds of those who ‘go with the flow’ that what they may think is a bad idea actually isn’t, but rather to have them tell you from the start that it is a great idea. You can’t say what you have is a great idea until you have someone tell you it is.
What You Can Learn From Victor Wouk
The name may not ring a bell, but he was the man behind hybrid vehicles. Wouk initially came up with the idea for hybrid vehicles when he was first approached in 1962 by Motorola founder, Russell Feldman, who asked Wouk to look into electric vehicles. Although Wouk came to the conclusion that batteries simply didn’t have enough energy to support a vehicle at the time, he continued to ponder the possibilities. Eventually, Wouk came up with the idea for a hybrid vehicle.
Using a Buick Skylark as his prototype, Victor Wouk successfully created the first ever hybrid vehicle which passed the rigorous EPA tests at the time. Still, in a series of events that can only be described as ‘mind-boggling,’ the government rejected the idea of producing hybrid vehicles at the time.
So what can we learn from Victor Wouk? Although Victor’s hybrid vehicle concept was shutdown, the fact remains that he had a great idea. Victor’s idea wasn’t shutdown because it was bad, but rather because it wasn’t the right time. The government wasn’t ready to take the automotive industry in a different direction and the idea of a car having half the horsepower of ‘traditional’ vehicles at the time was absurd to consumers. Whether your a scientist, a doctor, or an entrepreneur, this is something that one should always be mindful of: just because people aren’t ready for what you have to offer, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great idea. What may seem like a ‘shoot for stars’ kind of idea at one point in time, may be the next ‘hybrid car’ in another. A great idea should never be abandoned. Instead, it needs to be saved for when the time is right.
What Will You Do With A Great Idea?
Author and cartoonist, Ashleigh Brilliant, once wrote:
Good ideas are common – what’s uncommon are people who’ll work hard enough to bring them about
Just how you can bring a horse to a river, but can’t make him drink, a great idea remains just an idea unless you take action. Although Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times, he believed in his great idea and eventually brought us the light-bulb.
Don’t let a great idea go to waste. Who knows, it just might be the next ‘light-bulb.’
Photo by Adam Ross