Innovation is NOT about Ideas – How to Pick Your Best Idea
Your eyes are fixated on the text field labeled “ Innovation ” on your performance review form. An entire years work flashes before your eyes and you think to yourself : “ I had so many innovative ideas all year long, but none of them were implemented ! ” You begin to blame your boss and organization for the lack of support and encouragement they showed when you were showcasing your most enthusiastic ideas.
Whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, most often you will experience those fleeting light-bulb moments during the day where you go “ Eureka ! ”. You will make a note of your ideas on the smallest piece of paper you can find, or sometimes even maintain a large journal of ideas that you intend to pay attention to a few years from now. On some days you even struggle to come up with any idea at all and regret your state of existence for the inability to offer that latest innovation the world demands.
So how come your tsunami of great ideas has not seen the bright shore of prosperity?
YOU FAIL TO START
“ This is probably not the best time for me ” “ There’s a lot of other things I must take care of before I begin my dream project ” “ So many ideas ! I don’t even know WHERE to Start ! ”
You have overloaded yourself with so many ideas that when you finally decide to take action on any one of them, you are uncertain which one to pick. This often leads to completely walking away from the entire idea as if it never happened. You suddenly become the one who easily gave up because you had too many great ideas to work with !
YOU ARE OVERTHINKING YOUR PASSION
“ Follow Your Passion ”, “ Do What You Love ”, “ Go where the Heart is ”, and such common advice is well-intended but it certainly paints an abstract picture leaving you waiting to identify that one true passion. I’ll be blunt and just say that Following your Passion is Overrated
You can’t be spending all your time in transit and expect the destination to come to you. Understand that in order to pick that ONE idea, you don’t necessarily need to choose ONE passion. Every idea you thought of was most likely close to your heart to begin with, so you are certainly passionate about it.
Let’s stop watching too many Ted talks and begin the actual work required to light that bulb !
YOU FIRST DO WHAT YOU KNOW
One of the first instincts when starting a new project is to first work on something we already know. For example, if you wished to train a monkey to recite a poem on a pedestal, you would probably start building the pedestal first. Your mind is aware of the process of building a pedestal, but this effort will be wasted if you can’t train the monkey.
If you have been spending too much time only doing what you are good at, you are missing on a world of possibilities to expand your knowledge. When you start a new project, focus on the key elements, even if it resides outside your comfort zone. Over time your knowledge and skills towards this new area will likely improve and your efforts will certainly not be wasted towards building a useless pedestal. Step out of your comfort zone if you seek progress !
Now where’s that Idea I’ve been waiting to pick ?
Imagine yourself on the couch right now and feel a lose spring poking your back. Are you just going to sit there ignoring the discomfort or will you stand up and fix that darn spring so you can laze around comfortably ? The best idea is the one that pokes every inch of your existence and makes you want to go all-in on your efforts to solve a problem.
Nobody cares about your innovation unless you are going to solve a problem for them. Innovation is not about ideas, it’s about solving problems. Will you be able to solve a problem if you never plan to stick around for the entire duration of implementing your innovative idea ?
Look around you and notice the changes in your life in the last decade. Your phone is now a smartphone, office chairs are ergonomically designed, desks can now transform into standing desks with the touch of a button and your car steering wheel can heat up in the cold winters.
Are these just innovative ideas, or real world problems that demanded a laborious struggle ? Think hard, and you will notice that the easiest way to pick the best idea is to choose the one that solves a problem and one you plan to stay the longest with. Whether you plan to build a spaceship or implement that tiny change to enhance the performance of your software, how long are you willing to stick to this problem you wish to solve ?
Your innovative ideas will remain worthless until you act on them and pledge to battle the struggle like a fighter. It does not require you to be passionate or have complete knowledge of every aspect surrounding it, but should make you anxious and desperate for wanting to solve this problem.
Embrace the anxiety and stress surrounding your ideas, for it provides the much needed kick for you to get started. Your best idea is only an annoying poke away !
Carpe Diem !