Rework Bad Ideas Instead of Dismissing Them

While sometimes bad ideas are necessary stepping stones to good ideas, sometimes they are in fact actually good ideas — just ones that nobody else understands yet.

Hearing people call your idea crazy can be a sign that you’re working on something nobody else understands yet – and that’s exactly where we have to play. A lot of the motivation (behind dismissive feedback) is you’re doing something that is weird and strange, so a lot of our reaction is to immediately say, ‘No, that’s bad.’ What we really mean is it’s actually interesting but dangerous. Interesting and dangerous. And that gets translated as ‘no.’”

Bad ideas can be a sort of tool for eventually discovering big opportunities. A lot of bad ideas backed by a passionate entrepreneur can work on a small scale. Then, adjacent to those bad ideas, there may be some very powerful good ideas. If you really care about it, there’s a decent chance that other people care about it too and you can get it to critical mass.

The biggest opportunities lie in areas where no consensus exists on whether an idea is good or bad. It’s very hard to make money on… consensus. Because if something is already consensus then money will have already flooded in and the profit opportunity is gone. And so, if you are doing it right, you are continuously investing in things that are non-consensus at the time of investment. And ‘non-consensus’ in sort of practical terms, it translates to crazy. You are investing in things that look like they are just nuts.”

Successful entrepreneurs rarely dismiss bad ideas outright: They rework them in the hope that there’s a gem yet to be discovered. After all, the best opportunities aren’t always self-evident.

Instead of killing ideas and initiatives when they seem problematic, challenge yourself or your team to push further, reframe the problem and solution, or explore adjacencies. By bringing new thinking to seemingly bad ideas, you may end up with a breakthrough. Listen to all stakeholders regularly, and don’t stop, even once you’ve decided on a course of action. Pay special attention to new information and edge cases as you go — they often hold clues to move you toward better versions of your idea.

Summing-up: Since great ideas are rarely self-evident, you must work and rework problematic ones. If you do so, eventually a great one may reveal itself.

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