Modern corporations battling in the frenetic global marketplace are constantly on the hunt for the next great idea. That is a great waste of time and resources, as the best ideas (and those that make a company more competitive) come disguised as bizarre, loony, totally impractical ideas. The Director of one highly innovative firm recounts their weekly staff meetings, when staff members review potential ideas for development. He notes that, when the group unanimously hates an idea, he immediately writes it down, knowing that it likely contains elements of a viable future project. Renowned physicist Freeman Dyson believed that the appearance of wrongness was absolute proof of true creativity: “When the great innovation appears, it will most certainly be in a muddled, incomplete, and confusing form. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope” (Neumeier, 53). Even weird ideas that can’t be developed in their present form can be valuable: “Every idea, even a bad one, incorporates some form of discovery” (Robinson & Schroeder, 40). Losing a “good” idea to others shouldn’t be a concern. Howard Aiken, a famous inventor, said, “Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats” (Berkun, 59). Scott Berkun similarly noted that, “Every great idea in history has the fat red stamp of rejection on its face…Big ideas in all fields endure dismissals, mockeries, and persecutions (for them and their creators) on their way to changing the world” (Berkun, 54). As global strategist Gary Hamel asserted, “Only stupid questions create new wealth” (Hamel, 144). The future belongs to those who are actively searching for “stupid” answers.
Dr. Gary Oster
School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship
Innovation, failure, ideas, invention, strategy
Berkun, S. (2007). The myths of innovation. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Hamel, G. (2002). Leading the revolution. New York: Plume.
Neumeier, M. (2009) The designful company. Berkeley: New Riders.
Robinson, A. & Schroeder, D. (2003). Ideas are free. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.