Thursday, August 10, 2006

Yet more ways to kill great ideas

Reading Zack Urlocker's and Mat Kindal's posts on how good ideas are killed, some more ways came to my mind:

How do you expect this to develop in the future?

A great downer for bold and new ideas is to ask how it will develop in the future. Although it's reasonable to probe for it, a future perspective should always be seen as a possible scenario at best, and not be used as lakmus test for the entire idea.

Of course, it's different for things that have been done a thousand times before. In such cases, it's reasonable to extrapolate and to assume that what happened in a similar case is like to apply here again.

Hey, that's a great idea, that's almost exactly like what they do at [insert a business competitor]!

This type of reaction is quite insidious because it pretends to be in favour of the idea. In reality however, it compares it to an existing one, which makes the new idea seem unoriginal. If the comparison sticks, almost all opportunities for the new idea to florish are taken away, because everyone will expect everything to work out exactly the same as the idea to which it was compared.

Hey, that's a great idea, it's a pity we don't have the resources right now to pursue it. Maybe next year?

Claiming that there are no resources (manpower, money, time) to pursue an idea just yet seems like a sensible thing. From a perspective of efficiency, it seems reasonable not to let new ideas interfere with an existing planning and a prior allocation of resources. On the other hand, this attitude is a bit like: "Hey I will tolerate this new development, but only as something extra, and I won't allow it to influence whatever we were doing anyway".

Implementing new ideas cost. They cost often a great deal and sacrifices probably need to be made to make them a success. Great ideas need labour before they can ever become a product. Immediately constraining conditions on resource allocations based on the current state of operation is a sure way to take away all breathing space to pursue a new idea.

This is a great idea! Let's devise a task force right now, and have daily meetings to monitor progress. I think we should allocate $10 million dollars to start with, and hire lot's of developers to work on it. We will be shipping this in sync with the next [insert an upcoming public business event]

This is opposite to the previous one. Immediately over-stressing the importance and over-allocating resources pushes the expectations up to a level where they just cannot be met. Doing frequency based (instead of result or milestone based) progress monitoring is a sure way to do that. Setting a premature deadline is a way of ensuring that whatever will come out of this project is going to have major quality issues. Initial development might be successful, but will probably prove to be unmaintainable.


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