Ideas are Deceitful, Gold-Digging Parasites. … #39 #cong18


The vast majority of ideas bring only misery and hardship. The whole entrepreneurial economy is a lottery and somewhere deep in the human psyche we are hard wired to fall for the scam. Success requires great ideas, but the idea is not the success. Stop putting your faith in single ideas, treat the first ones that come along like a deceitful gold-digging parasite out to distract you.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. The entrepreneurial economy is a lottery
  2. We fall for lotteries because of how our minds work
  3. Only 4% of the patents that protect our ideas make money
  4. Smart entrepreneurs treat ideas like commodities

About Damian Costello:

Damian Costello runs Decode Innovation and specialises in Disruptive Innovation and the changing market dynamics facing the Medtech sector. Damian is passionate about helping Ireland retain and grow its position in the global Medtech economy.

Damian has almost 25 years of consulting experience across global multi-nationals to local start-ups in the Medical Device, Pharma, Automotive, Financial Services and ICT sectors. He has delivered successful strategies and breakthrough solutions in Ireland, Europe, North America and Asia.

Contacting Damian Costello:

You can contact Damian by email and see his work on Decode Innovation.

By Damian Costello.

The biggest mistake I see in business is people becoming slaves to their ideas. Ideas need to be treated for what they are: deceitful gold-digging parasites. Ideas steal lives, ruin people’s objectivity, destroy their security, and make fools of those that blindly believe in them. Ideas turn sensible employees into ‘entrepreneurs’ often against their better judgement. Ideas turn ordinary business people into self-destructive zealots. Ideas should be avoided at all costs, because the vast majority of them bring only misery and hardship.

Why do so many of us fall into the ‘ideas trap’ if it is so obviously a mugs game? Why do reasonable people gamble all they have on pipedreams? My best guess is that the whole entrepreneurial economy is a lottery and ideas are just the tickets. Somewhere deep in the human psyche we are hard wired to fall for the lottery scam. Even the most sensible of us succumb, when the jackpot in the pick six lottery rolls over to eye watering levels. The ‘idea trap’ is a lottery and like all lotteries we fall for it because of three flaws in the way our minds work; our inability to comprehend probabilities, the ‘near miss effect’, and the ‘availability bias’.

The lifetime odds of someone in the US dying in a car accident is 1 in 90, in a fire 1 in 250, getting killed by lightening 1 in 135,000. The chances of winning the multi-hundred million-dollar US Powerball Lottery are 1 in 239,000,000. If human beings could appreciate probabilities, we would never get into a car and we would never enter a lottery.

The ‘near miss effect’ is illustrated by the how surprisingly easy it is to get three out of six numbers in the same US lottery; 1 in 600 compared to 1 in 239,000,000 for six. The ‘near miss effect’ convinces players who get an easy three, that they should keep going in the mistaken belief that they are nearly there.

‘Availability bias’, arguably the most relevant to business, is where we base decisions on the information most readily available to us. This is dangerous, because we are far more likely to hear the show-off winner’s stories than those of the embarrassed losers. When entrepreneurs or business people think about big ideas, they need to temper their enthusiasm with the realisation that the logic they are using is disproportionally informed by positive data points.

The ultimate repository of ideas, the US Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO, has issued over 6 million patents (ideas) since 1790. Only 4% of these have made any money. While some were filed to block competitors rather than make a profit, the rest were intended to make money but lost money in fees instead. Sensible people engage in this foolishness because a miniscule number of patents make lottery type money for their owners. By the time the patent on the drug Lipitor expired in 2011, it had earned an estimated $125 Billion for Pfizer. With jackpots like these, it’s not hard to see why good people give into temptation.

While success obviously does require great ideas, it is important to remember that the idea is not the success. Smart entrepreneurs treat ideas like commodities. They have a veracious hunger for ideas and put all their ideas together into an informed vision. They convert that vision into a strategy and they work relentlessly to make that strategy happen. They learn from their mistakes and are always open to new ideas.

Whether you need 10 ideas in your lifetime to be successful or 100 a day will be revealed to you in time. If you treat the first one that comes along like a deceitful gold-digging parasite out to distract you from better ideas, then you won’t go too far wrong.

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