Scott Berkun put up a post the other day titled, Where do Your Ideas Die? He tries to make the point that for companies who want to innovate, lack of ideas is rarely the problem. Instead, the problem rests with the bottlenecks in the creative lifecycle. Apparently, according to his commenters, I'm (or managers/business owners like me) the bottleneck - the manager who refuses to fund the many good ideas sent my way. Here's my take on why seemingly good ideas don't get funded.
- You're lazy - You've only fleshed out 1% of what needs to be fleshed out to fund an idea, leaving the other 99% for your potential sponsor. Here's an example, "We should leverage social networks." You don't have to spend 6 months writing a business plan around your idea, but see how far you can take it before handing it off. You'll learn in the process and your idea will have a much better shot at getting funded.
- The Idea Has Been Explored Previously - Unless your idea is truly groundbreaking, it's likely the team that owns the particular area has already considered it and decided not to pursue it (or maybe they did pursue it and failed).
- The Idea Seems Big, But Is Small - The thing you're proposing is a "good thing", but is small, in terms of amount of benefit per user or number of users affected.
- Better Things To Do - You may have a million dollar idea, but there may already be five or ten million dollar projects in the works (even if you're not aware of them).
- The Idea Will Fail - Unless you're a true expert in your area, in which case you can probably fund the idea yourself, someone else probably knows more about how your idea will fare in the market than you do. They have more experience, and better judgment/instincts based on that experience.
Think your idea doesn't fall into any of these categories? Then here's what to do:
- Flesh It Out - See how far you can take the idea. Try to model how many users might be affected and how it benefits them (and your company).
- Mock It Up - Try to cobble together some mockups, either yourself or from a designer that you can trade for a bottle of Scotch. I learned to do this myself because otherwise I'd be going through Scotch like nobody's business.
- Address the Risks - Try to come up with reasons why the idea might fail and see how you can mitigate those risks in your plan.
In a future post, I'll talk about some ways to generate more (hopefully good) ideas for your own product.