9: Killing good ideas is a good idea

So that brilliant idea of yours isn't the only version of it under the sun, but that's okay (Priniciple 8) you're pouring everything you have in to making it real because you believe it is the one and true answer to the problem at hand.

A this point, killing that good idea could very well be a good idea.

It's easy to fall in love with an idea.  And when we're not mindful of process, and spend our energy worrying about whether we'll be successful and on budget and on time (not that those are bad things, they're very important), we can also fall in love too early with an idea, simply out of fear.  The mental or organizational dialog goes something like this: "This one is good, and we're in a rush, so let's go do it.".  Early closure is the enemy of innovation.  Better to move fast through lots of ideas early, throwing most of them out in the process, than to hone down to one in the very early days, polishing it to perfection in the vague hope that it is The One. 

Killing ideas also reserves energy so that there's enough left over to actually bring the very best ones to market.  In work, as in life, you can't do everything, so deciding what you won't do becomes as important as deciding what you will do (while always maintaining a bias toward the doing).  In a discussion about why Apple never shipped a post-Newton PDA, Steve Jobs said "If we had gotten into it, we wouldn't have had the resources to do the iPod.  We probably wouldn't have seen it coming."  At the end of the day, you never want to be low, slow, and out of money or time.

So go look at  your portfolio of ideas, and then kill a few that aren't going to be remarkable in the way they go about making people happy and creating value in the world.  You'll be much more innovative as a result.

This is the ninth of 21 principles.  Please give me your feedback and ideas.

5 thoughts on “9: Killing good ideas is a good idea

  1. I think the first good idea you have to kill is your title for this principle. I like the dynamics you’ve described, but I don’t think the title does a good job of communicating them. Plus I think it will be used as a cover for assholery – wherein I kill someone else’s idea because “Diego says we need to kill good ideas”. Which is not at what the principle is about, in my reading.

  2. I think this is way too simple of a statement.
    I hope it doesn’t become someone’s quick reasoning for dismissing an idea or being a jerk.
    Other thoughts for idea titles:
    Knowing which ideas to kill and which ideas to morph.
    Don’t fall in love with your idea.
    Understand how your idea works in the company

  3. Killing good ideas can be a good idea?
    This is something I have found useful working within a project, but it was also something I had to learn in the real-world. At school I could simply choose to put less weighting on constraints such as cost, manufacturability etc, so that I could continue to develop my ‘good idea’.
    Learning when to take a step backwards and let-go of an idea (knowing more than I did when I started the project) can result in a faster path to a more appropriate solution.

  4. This is good, especially in light of the fact that it is very difficult for most companies to kill bad projects, let alone good projects.
    Diego – have you studies Toyota and the Toyota Production System? One thing not highlighted enough in innovation circles is how Toyota empowers tens of thousands of people to solve problems innovatively and simply: the difference between thousands of small rocks versus a few big rocks is a philosophical one, but one that defines a culture of innovation across groups of people, or a few select heroes.
    Pete Abilla

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