Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bad Idea or Bad Execution?

Have you ever tried something new (perhaps at the suggestion of someone whom you trusted, but thereafter no longer did) and afterwards thought, "Well, that was a bad idea!"

The thought might have been accompanied by a companion such as, "I'm never going to do that again!"

Maybe "ever" is to infrequent. How often do you or how many times have you tried something and afterwards thought, "Well that was a bad idea!"

Why did you think that? No doubt what you attempted didn't go according to plan or work as well as promised. Perhaps it had undesirable side-effects such as embarrassment or paint drops all over the persian rug. Perhaps the psycho-emotional experience was too intense.

All these are common reasons that one might conclude that something was a bad idea. However, they're not actually reasonable reasons. They're associative reasons. Not working as planned, feeling embarrassed afterwards, or having undesirable side-effects are all good reasons not to want to try something again. However, they don't make the something a bad idea.

There are actually three possibilities: 1) the idea was bad, 2) a good idea wasn't implemented very well, or 3)  a bad idea wasn't implemented very well. (Note: the last one can actually turn out OK).

Sure, there are bad ideas, e.g, chick-sashimi or line-dancing with buffalo. However, many good ideas get a bad rap because they weren't implemented well.

The problem is that we often confuse "bad idea" with "bad execution". If you're concerned about things like being embarrassed or if you're trying to prove a point, there's incentive to confuse them. Fact is, not-working-out doesn't necessarily mean that something was a bad idea. By itself, it doesn't prove a thing other than, it didn't work out.

My friend Jonathan and I used to look through old technical journals to find good ideas that were dismissed as bad because they couldn't be implemented with the technology at the time they were conceived. It's amazing how many there are. For example, the patents on the cellular technology used pervasively today expired twenty years before they could be implemented.

There are gazillions of good ideas that have been tried and dismissed as bad ideas; they weren't, they were just poorly implemented. No doubt, each of us have tried thousands of bad ideas that aren't bad.

How can you tell? Hmm... Good question. I guess one way is to ask whether or not it would have worked if something skilled had tried it. Would it have worked if Michael Jordan tried it or if Shaun White tried it or if BB King tried it?

If the answer is "yes", then it's probably a good idea suffering from bad execution. Jonathan always used this approach with apparel; something was bad if "not even Sean Connery could make that look cool."

Anyway, if you've run out of good ideas, you might have a bunch of them lying on the refuse heap just waiting to be tried again.

Happy Thursday,

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