Problems With Good Ideas

Good ideas have two major problems.

  1. They spread.
  2. They divert attention from bad ideas.

Let’s look at the first problem with this image as the illustration.  Regardless of what you think about the Occupy movement, you’ll have to agree that it’s definitely spread.  During a recent visit to Utica College I picked up the flyer on the right.

What’s interesting about Occupy Utica (and the other Occupy events) is that it didn’t require a long series of alignment meetings.  No top-down executive mandates.  No brand advertising campaigns.  None of the things, in fact, that one normally thinks are needed to get people to adopt an idea or buy a product.  I’m pretty sure there’s nobody actually in charge of all this, nor do they have any marketing dollars.

The Occupy movement is spreading because it’s a good idea.  People like it and they are willing to make the emotional investment in the idea and take their beliefs to the streets.

The second problem with good ideas is diversion of attention.  Last month, I wrote that I believed that good ideas plus attention creates the opportunity for leadership.  When good ideas come up and begin to spread, you have two choices.  Ignore the idea and continue on doing what you were doing, or pay attention to the new thing.

If you ignore the new idea, you may miss the train.  But if you pay attention to the new idea, you are going to have to make time for it and something else must suffer.

So what’s the problem with good ideas?

Simple.  If your idea is bad, or even just not as good as the other competing ideas out there, something better is going to get attention and resources. That competing idea will collect a better team faster than the alternatives and will grow more quickly.  Your idea–even if an OK idea–will die in the face of better options.

So if you find your idea flagging and not getting the attention you believe it deserves, maybe there’s something better out there.  And you’ve got a decision.  You can adjust your idea to make it more compelling.  Or you can can put your idea aside and join one of the better ones.

In either case, you’ve got to decide.  The quicker you take action, the overall quality of all ideas will go up.  The world needs better ideas and more people supporting good ideas.  Don’t wait around!

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