When was the last time you had an interesting idea? Note that I’m not asking about a “good” idea, just an interesting one.
The reason for the distinction is that a “good” idea is one that fits well with the needs, wants, and available resources within a particular situation. In other words, it can be made to serve some purpose. However, these factors are all external and beyond your control.
An “interesting” idea, on the other hand, is one that breaks new ground, challenges accepted notions, sparks consideration from the people around you, or just captures someone’s attention. It doesn’t have to fit a situation. It need not fit well with external factors of any kind. It doesn’t have to be useful.
For this reason, all “good” ideas are interesting, but not all “interesting” ideas meet the criteria for being a “good” one.
It’s important to make this distinction because I believe “interesting” ideas are worth generating, even if it’s hard to find a way to put them to good use. What’s more, I also believe that when you practice the art of productivity and you strive to be successful, as a natural by-product you’re likely to generate a lot of “interesting” ideas.
And even if they’re not “useful,” those ideas nevertheless have value of some kind. That’s why you should never stuff them into a drawer somewhere to be ignored and forgotten. Instead, it’s helpful to put all your ideas through a vetting process to try and determine whether anything about them might somewhere, sometime, somehow become at least somewhat useful.
Here’s how to proceed:
You’ll give your “interesting” idea a better shot at becoming useful if you quickly check whether it fits into any opportunities or needs you’re currently facing. Don’t try to hammer a square peg into a round hole, though. Just look for existing holes of any shape where your new idea might possibly fit.
Just the same way you put together a jig-saw puzzle, by taking a piece and scanning the puzzle field for a place where it might fit, take your “interesting” idea and scan your current situation for a place where it might become helpful.
For example, look for problems to be solved, opportunities to be seized, or challenges to be met. Even if you don’t find one, this kind of analysis will help you better understand your “interesting” idea so you can make suitable use of it should the opportunity arise.
Think in terms of whether your idea might:
- Make one or more person’s work and life even a little better.
- Allow for wider use of your skills, abilities, and talents.
- Snip a small irritation in the bud, before it becomes a big problem.
- Speed up what needs to be sped up, slow down what needs to be slowed down, open up a bottleneck, or nail down a broad area of uncertainty.
A second step in processing your new idea is to check it against reality.
- Does it make any kind of sense?
- Is it possible or practical?
- Will it solve more problems than it causes?
- How do its costs and benefits size up against each other?
- What are its risks and rewards?
- Does it naturally attract or repel people?
Ideas that fit well with reality are far more likely to find some use somewhere down the line. But since reality and ideas both change, failing a reality check does not necessarily make an idea “dead on arrival.”
If you begin to gain confidence in your “interesting” idea, you can move toward consideration of how you’ll get others to accept it.
As with selling any product or service, the trick is to identify your idea’s most appealing characteristics. Does it:
- Ease someone’s “pain point”?
- Provide pleasure or increase happiness?
- Make someone look or feel better?
- Save time?
- Make money?
- Do anything that people find desirable?
Your idea may have other positive attributes. Some ideas literally sell themselves. Others are so outside the box it’ll take years, or longer, for others to accept them.
With all this information in hand, you probably know enough to formulate an action plan detailing what you will do with this “interesting” idea, such as:
- Shelve it, for now, for later, or forever.
- Drive it toward implementation.
- Offload it to others who might be better able to implement the idea, or integrate it with other ideas to improve the whole package.
- Keep developing the “interesting” idea so it becomes “even more interesting.”
Once you have generated one “interesting” idea, you become far more likely to generate another, and another, and another.
That’s why it’s helpful to adjust your mindset to encompass two opposite strategies:
- Explore your “interesting” idea – as we’ve discussed here – to extract all the value you can from the experience of generating it, the experience of evaluating it, and the idea itself. All this will help you do a better job of wringing the value from additional “interesting” ideas you may generate in the future.
- Recognize that it’s just an idea, not necessarily made of gold. If you find it lacking in substance, value, or applicability, it’s no big deal to chuck it and move on.
The worlds of work and life are driven by ideas, both old and new. You can join this process by staying alert for possibilities and opportunities, by opening yourself to new ideas, and by vetting those ideas so you push forward only the ones that most deserve your time and attention.
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