Have you ever come across a lightbulb moment during a conversation with friends at a weekend BBQ or during the customary family gatherings and thought, “Wow! That is a great idea, why hasn’t anybody done anything about it yet?” And it just seems so obvious to you that this could be the solution to so many problems observed around. But what do you do with that information, and that idea which seemed so right to begin with becomes just a fantasy or unrealistic? Now as humans, we often rationalise ourselves that something is either “too good to be true” or “it can’t be that bad.” And this process of rationalising is our way of justifying and giving meaning to what we observe in our world around us.
So how do we then develop an idea?
This thought process of developing an idea is itself fundamentally different to the origins of coming out with an idea in the first place. Seeing a solution to a problem and thinking about how it can be solved is essentially a creative process where you see out of the box and it is precisely that reason why when you apply that idea to solve a problem, it just makes common sense. Because that idea in theory fits the mould and solves the problem. However, for those others who do not see a problem to begin with, they will not be able to understand or even comprehend the solution and how it “fits”.
Developing an idea also requires some sort of challenge process where you question the validity of an idea. This approach is also more logic driven compared to the creative components that gives birth to such ideas to begin with. And as I am sure most of you would relate, there always seems to be more bad ideas than good ones and that in itself makes the process of developing ideas much harder and usually deters people from developing ideas in order to preserve the wholesome image of raw ideas to begin with.
So at risk of becoming way too philosophical, how do we overcome the psychological barrier of developing ideas further beyond their initial conception?
I guess it is really down to managing the expected outcomes. Most ideas are founded in fantasy and thus will not be practical and suitable for its direct and indirect applications so they will most likely be shot down. But the mindset and approach to look at things is similar to a inverse triangle shaped funnel. You start with different ideas, contradicting or opposing ideas, maybe even for different problems or ways of application. From there you can filter out or go through the idea with a systematic process.
One approach is to run a “Who, What, Where, When, Why & How” method. Which essentially is a mind map concept to map out the above questions and how the ideas answer those respective questions. This activity is very helpful to process the ideas and adopt different modes of thinking.
Generally, the two forms of thinking can be broken down into Divergent and Convergent thinking.
For divergent thinking, the ideas are usually expanded on, with more tangents discovered and explored. The next step could then be to switch into the convergent thinking where the ideas are refined, and meaningful connections or relationships are drawn out to streamline our thinking. This process to be able to move from Divergent to Convergent is important in order to solidify the idea and thus see it applicable to our understanding.
So to answer the question; - What makes an Idea an exceptional one?
I guess to me it would be an idea that is worked on and developed and pursued because in the end, you never know where the opportunities will come from and to no have pursued something because of a lack of effort or time is a really unfortunate way to lose out on the chance of something big.
Keep digging, chasing and one day you will achieve your dreams and the BIG IDEA everyone will be talking about.