The ‘Stupid’ Ideas That Made Millions

Many of the things we take for granted today would have sounded ridiculous when they were first thought of:

  • ‘What about a machine that can fly and carry people?’
  • ‘What about a way of speaking to people on the other side of the world?’
  • ‘What about getting the meat and holding it over a fire until it changes colour to make it taste better?’

When someone first posited the ideas of the aeroplane, the telephone or cooking, you can bet the initial reaction of others wasn’t, ‘What a great idea! You, my friend are a visionary who will change the world!’

It probably would have been something closer to ‘Yeah, right, that’s going to happen. Maybe you should have a nice quiet, lie down.’

Many great innovations have grown from ideas that initially sounded silly or unrealistic or both.

One of the easiest things to do in the world is to punch holes in a new idea. It’s not hard, and it’s not clever. But it can be dangerous, because the world is full of people and businesses who have criticised or ignored or laughed at an idea that sounded a bit wacky, and a few years later realised that they had made a huge mistake.

So here are four things you should do make the most of new ideas:

  • Encourage people to have them. Maybe if you do that you’ll get 30 ideas that aren’t going to help you improve your business one little bit. But then the 31st idea that comes along be a beauty. You won’t get that 31st brilliant idea unless you are patient enough to listen to the first 30.
  • Grow ideas before you judge them. Don’t criticise a new idea until you give it a chance to get as good as it can get. Blow it up like a balloon. Add to it. Doing this is harder than pulling ideas apart, but it’s a lot more productive.
  • Accept that ideas about how to make your business better can come from anyone in your organisation, no matter how junior. Don’t assume that ideas have to come from the people who are supposed to have them; upper management, the innovation department, management consultants or the committee whose job it is to come up with new ideas. Cast your net as wide as can be, and make it clear to everyone that it’s part of their job to come up with ways of doing things better.
  • Have a logical and rational process by which you can advance new ideas one step at a time. Don’t pick winners too early by hunches or by guesswork. Devote enough resources so that you can take every idea one step forward. Then you might discover that some of them aren’t going to work. Take the remainder another step forward. Than another few will probably fall away. Take the reminder the next step forward. And so on until you find a few that look promising. Take those ideas and trial them on a small scale so that if they don’t work it’s not too expensive.

Yes, all this requires resources – time and money- but if you go through this process and in so doing get access to even a few ideas that you can implement into your business and that will make measurable improvement to the way you do things, you should find that it is money well spent.