ideas failure and conflict (and how older people are the entrepreneurs)


“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; ideas fishfor time is the greatest innovator.”

Francis Bacon


Ok. In business:

–          Ideas are everything.

–          Ideas are separators and differentiators.

–          Ideas and information will be at the core of tomorrow’s company value.

Ideas are new remedies <against new evils>.

Without ideas, as Mr. Bacon says, Time will have an idea to share with you <without telling you what it is>.

Ideas are the new currency in business. Any business … including the service business. If you have a business focused solely on “making the customer happy” you are on a fool’s errand. In today’s interconnected world expectations <and what makes a customer happy> are driven not by your competition nor any realistically relevant industry benchmark … but rather by whatever that customer has uncovered anywhere in the world to establish a benchmark. If you and your business try to ‘follow the customer expectation’ one-by-one … well … one will quickly become a ‘none’ <as in out of business>.  I wrote about this ‘Expectation Economy‘.

Regardless. Suffice it to say if you are not in the business of generating new ideas to refresh your business you are not competing in the same world as the rest of the businesses out there.

But. Here’s the deal. Ideas are crazy elusive.

ideas alter balanceOh. Well … maybe I should say that good ideas are crazy elusive.

What I do know for sure is that everyone wants ideas. I say that because I know for sure that the most frequent questions we seem to ask in business is “where did you get the idea for ….?” or “how did you think of that?” And at the core of these questions is the basic curiosity of where the hell do ideas come from. And that…well … that is a GREAT question.

Many people succeed at producing innovations because they churn out gobs and gobs <many> of ideas. Notice I didn’t say “good ideas” I simply said ideas.

This means both good and bad ideas.

The truth is that the most successful people tend to be those with the most failures <or shitty ideas>.

This has a couple of repercussions. First and foremost … you have to be in an environment where you are surrounded by those that can live with failures. So I imagine I am writing about the culture of an organization. And I don’t mean fun or wacky or cool or even ‘customer first’ … I mean business attitude culture.

Most innovative companies tend to be alike in that they encourage employees to trust each other, comment on each other’s work and take criticism in stride. Their management encourages intelligent risk-taking, tolerates failure and encourages an open exchange of information. Change is encouraged and change comes from ideas.

Thinking about it an interesting aspect of this kind of idea is culture is what it is not. It tends to not be an internally cutthroat competitive “step on someone to get higher’ type organization. These types of culture also tend to embrace failure.

I do not write this flippantly because there is an inherent massive challenge in this type of culture.

The challenge?

You discuss failure. You discuss mistakes.

Whoa. You are inevitably creating an environment where it is not only safe to make failures but it also means you have to be able to talk openly about them <for some reason I have this vision of sharks circling blood in the water at the moment …>.

Some guy named Shapiro who wrote a book on innovation says it the best: “Mistakes are OK—hiding them is not.”

Look. There is no magic formula for generating a good idea, but that doesn’t mean there’s no formula at all.

Well. Not an exact formula like ‘do this and this will happen’ cause & effect type formula. I am suggesting formula in the sense of hard work and absorbing stimulus <knowledge, experiences, etc.> with which to generate responses. And that formula should be in an environment conducive to making mistakes <and trying things> and discussing the mistakes and wacky thoughts.

Here is another formula thought for you. These ideas tend to reveal themselves while you’re working on something else.  I mention that because I am not a big believer in ‘innovation groups’ or ‘ideation groups’ whose sole responsibility is coming up with ideas. I have a belief they lose perspective. Get people working on stuff they like and doing things they like … in an environment they like … and squeeze ideas out of them. They will be good ideas … they will be useful ideas … and they will be ideas borne out of doing something else.

Anyway. This intangible formula is desirable to figure out because at the heart of any successful business is a great idea <or a number of them>.

Some seem so simple we wonder why nobody thought of them before. Others are so revolutionary we wonder how anybody could’ve thought of them at all. But those great ideas don’t come on command.

And that leaves lots of people asking the same question: How did someone have THAT idea and how can we work the same magic?

Well. It’s not magic. But it is magical when it happens.

My main advice when thinking of ideas?

Go big or go home.

There are opportunities to make money by building businesses that marginally improve on existing products or services. But. The real success <money> happens when the decision is made to go after an enormous idea that seems slightly crazy.

Well. That’s not crazy staring at you … that’s something epic.

So … seek the epic shit

And if you ‘do some epic shit’ and fail?

Shift quickly. Failure is consistent. What you learn in failure may open a new door in the same epic hallway you just didn’t see at the beginning.

But doing something truly epic means you cannot hesitate … you have to shift quickly to get to the door. Fail and move.

That’s the ticket.

Fail and stop <too long>? You are doomed <for an epic failure>.

Lastly. Who comes up with these epic type business ideas? This is a crazy conversation to have with people because our perceptions are truly out of whack. The media driven big success stories lead some people to think that coming up with big ideas is a young person’s game. But the tech entrepreneurs who rose to early fame and fortune are just the outliers. The typical entrepreneur is a middle-aged professional who learns about a market need and starts a company with his own savings. Research completed in 2009 determined that the average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, health care and aerospace is 40.

And twice as many successful entrepreneurs are aged over 50 as under 25.

And twice as many over 60 as under 20.

Whoa. Entrepreneurship is for the old <and the ones who have the most mistake experience>?

<note: insert a bunch of crazy exclamation points and wacky #*?’s here>

Go figure.

Anyway. Regardless of your age I believe anyone can come up with ideas.

In fact. To exist in today’s <and surely tomorrow’s> business world you will have to be creative thinking and have ideas <offering possibilities>. Be open to new things. Have the confidence to learn something more or take a risk. Most people don’t … so you are already ahead of the game if you do.

Ok. So if you don’t want to take risk just put more “stuff” in your head <one of the best books in the world is James Webb Young’s “How to Produce Ideas” written in 1922>.

You’ll think more.

You’ll have more ideas.

And I imagine you will have some conflict in your head as you think about all the new stuff you are cramming into it.

That’s okay.Conflict is good <in this case>. Conflict can spark the fire to some epic idea.

In the end.

Go big or go home.

I love that thought particularly when I write about ideas.

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Written by Bruce