What is a good idea? #73 #cong18

Synopsis:

The definition of a ‘good’ idea is changing for the better – enabled by good people and the rapid advancement of technology.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. For the first time in history, technology may be ahead of our ideas.
  2. There is real fear of proliferation of bad ideas.
  3. However, a number of factors are increasingly supporting the implementation of good ideas – ones that benefit humanity.
  4. In a more idea-friendly century, is ‘good’ good enough?

About Anne Wilson:

Born in Africa, made in Europe, refined in Asia and being reinvented in Ireland, Anne Wilson has worked primarily in Finance and Pharmaceuticals.
She worked in the operations departments of several London investment banks – primarily as a Six Sigma specialist – before switching to business and customer excellence roles in pharmaceuticals. As a Regional Commercial Excellence Director, based out of Singapore, her main interests were Innovation and Learning – and adapting programs for different cultures.
In Ireland, she has collaborated with her family on two projects and is a Wealth Partner in an exciting and ambitious global real estate start-up. She continues to explore Innovation, Learning , Entrepreneurship and Future Trends with a view to finding the best way to contribute to building a better future in Ireland.

Contacting Anne Wilson:

You can connect with Ann on LinkedIn or send her an email.

By Anne Wilson

What is a ‘good’ idea? I have been asked this question many times in my career. Well, there are all the obvious answers: an idea that has the potential to solve a problem, reduce risk, meet a customer need and ultimately make or save money…for the least amount of effort and cost.

But what I am invariably really being asked is ‘What is expected of me to make my boss happy?’. While pressure can have a positive effect on performance, I have rarely found this to be an ideal starting place for creative ideas – be they good or bad.

Firstly, it is very limiting for the ‘good’ classification to simply be a function of the opinion of a single person who has marginally more power than the team tasked with coming up with the idea. Also, if the team does not agree with an idea, there is a risk they will lack the commitment required to contribute sufficient energy and perseverance to implement the idea effectively. These tensions do not only exist in the corporate world. Have you ever had what you thought was a good idea, and then failed to execute on it yourself?

Secondly, no one knows whether an idea is good or bad until it has exited infancy and starts showing the promise of a teenager. For this, it needs testing, prototyping, evaluation, end-user validation and at the very minimum an objective, critical discussion with the right people.

Nevertheless, the question continues to linger in my mind. What is a good idea? Ideas are wonderful, fluid creations with undefined potential impact. The core essence of an idea can be implemented in a multitude of ways – depending on environment, culture, experience of the person leading the task, the team and available technology, resources and time.

Timing is also a factor. My grandfather’s comics and early television shows contained wonderful ideas that fired people’s imaginations and optimism for more elegant and exciting solutions to the everyday challenges they experienced. One of the main barriers to bringing these ideas to life was that the technology simply did not exist. Now it does. The internet has changed everything, and other technologies and fields of study have developed exponentially in recent years. Now ordinary people are overwhelmed by the diversity of new ideas and stunned to learn that most of them are not only possible but are already in existence and being tested for scaleability and commercialisation. Could it be that, for the first time in history, our technology is ahead of our ideas?

The speed at which new ideas are now being brought to life and spread (often globally) can be disconcerting, even frightening – what if someone uses this idea-friendly century for bad ideas? This is possible of course, but here is what gives me hope. The definition of a ‘good’ idea seems to be changing.

In recent years I have observed the most amazing environment being created for good ideas. Not simply ideas with commercial viability, but ideas that have potential for positive impact on humanity as a whole. Ideas related to healthcare, education and better social structures to allow us to live in harmony with each other and the planet.

If ideas are good, they tend to grow, evolve and even spread organically – good ideas go viral. Really good ideas receive crowdfunding and attract people with similar goals to help implement and share them. More formally, there are organisations which offer resources (eg. expertise, funding, access to labs, equipment, knowledge and networks) and awards to recognise good ideas – ones that will reduce human suffering and ignorance, ones that will empower more people to have a better lived experience.

Here is one final consideration for an idea to be classified as ‘good’. Will it be viable for all 7.5 billion people on this planet? It may improve the life of one person, but will there be a cost to the environment that everyone else needs to share? Is an idea great because it helps a million people? What if that same idea creates a negative impact on the health and security of others? New technologies, global networks of good people with diversified skills, perspectives and resources can solve problems with far greater sophistication than was possible in the past.

If your idea benefits some at the cost of the rest, it needs to be re-designed. Your good idea, even your great idea, is not yet your best idea.