Sometimes they wake you up in the middle of the night, sometimes they just pop into your head fully formed and sometimes they only arrive after painstakingly brainstorming for weeks or months. I’m talking, of course, about ideas.
While we always hope they’re good, the fact is that we usually have more bad ones. This is just as true for business as it is for everything else in life. Lest you think this article is just about bad startup ideas, let me assure you that it’s about those, plus partnerships, sales campaigns, sales channels, marketing programs, product ideas and any other business related ideas.
In my own entrepreneurial experience, my bad ideas far outweighed my good ones and I had some ideas that I thought were good that I failed to act on because I was wasting time on the bad ones before I realized they were bad.
Related Article: Don’t Fall in Love with Your Ideas
But, I don’t mind any of this. This is called entrepreneurship. It’s more of a dynamic process than a job or a state of being. As everyone should, I’ve relied on my past to help educate me for the future, and that is an ongoing process, as I’ve still got a lot to learn about separating the good ideas from the bad.
Let me just say that I don’t believe having bad ideas is a bad thing. Every bad idea that I acted on (and regretted later) taught me a valuable lesson and made my future ideas better. Not all bad ideas are readily apparent (if that was the case, nobody would act on them). But, they do have some telltale signs that you can watch out for. You can’t expect your team members and employees to shoot down the bad ideas, either. After all, shooting down an idea your boss thinks is brilliant isn’t something a lot of team members and employees are going to be willing to do.
1) You believe you are the first person to think of it.
Great ideas are almost never brought to life by the first person to think of them, so there must be some indication of someone thinking and acting on a similar idea. Do your research and find out if someone else is thinking along the same lines as you and has already put the idea into practice.
2) Everybody on your team agrees that it’s a good idea.
If this happens, you may need to switch out at least some of your team members because they’ve gone into yes-man or yes-woman mode, which is great if you’re a celebrity, but terrible if you’re a business person. One hundred percent consensus rarely, if ever, brings about the best result.
Find a trustworthy person who does not agree with your idea and find out why before you go ahead with it. If they are able to talk you out of it, it probably wasn’t worth acting on.
3) You had a great idea last year that you did not act on only to see someone else make it successful, so you are acting on this one to make up for it.
Just because your brain is wired to come up with great ideas does not mean it is wired to know if those ideas are good or not. If that is the case, go back to No. 2 and find those trusted people who you can discuss this idea with and bounce it off of to see if it has any merit. Maybe you did miss out on one last year, but acting on a bad idea won’t make up for it.
4) You have a great idea for an industry that you have no experience in and limited knowledge of.
To be clear, I’m not saying this can’t happen. Being an outsider to an industry gives you a different perspective on it than people who are heavily involved in it.
There is nothing wrong with being an industry outsider and coming up with a great idea, but if this is the case, then you have to be more careful and thoroughly scrutinize the idea. If you are not living and breathing this particular industry every day, that means you also may not see why it wouldn’t work.
5) You don’t know why you came up with the idea, you just came up with it.
If this idea just dropped out of the sky and landed in your brain fully formed without any forethought, you also need to be careful with it.
Great ideas usually come from a long process (the “light bulb” moment when the idea strikes you is short and instantaneous but the process to get to that point is usually long). Think of a painter coming up with a masterpiece. Maybe that person can create one in a few minutes, but it still takes a lot of work beforehand to be able to do that. Only rarely can a natural talent create a masterpiece without prior long term practice.
Lest you get discouraged, from all this, the final word on coming up with great ideas is to keep thinking. It does not matter if you came up with 20 bad ideas before you come up with that one great one. That is how you keep your creativity muscles strong. You just have to know which one is the idea worth pursuing and that, like everything else, takes skill and practice.
Author: Serhat Pala (@RhinoForceLLC) is the President and founder of RhinoForce, a full-service internet marketing agency that provides expertise to help its clients plan and execute their online marketing strategies. An immigrant from Turkey, Serhat has founded and run various businesses in the United States with a great degree of success.
Published: March 12, 2015