Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

Do you have any “bad” ideas?

July 31, 2010

I just got a question from a podcast listener.  Brad from California asks:  “Dan, I hear you share about all your good ideas.  Do you ever have a bad idea?”

I had to pick myself up off the floor after laughing so hard.  Do I ever have a bad idea – oh yeah.  About 10 times a day.  And you know why?  I don’t know of any way to get to the good ideas without going through a whole lot of bad ones.  If you are waiting to share or experiment with an idea until you have a perfect one, chances are strong that 10 years from now you’ll still be waiting.

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein

Most people are afraid of good or bad ideas.  Good ideas require change and that’s intimidating.  Bad ideas make us look foolish or stupid, or waste time and money.

But take a look around you.  Anyone who is doing something great had a lot of bad ideas to get to where they are today.  I don’t know of any exceptions.   If you haven’t “failed” recently or had a bad idea, success will likely elude you as well.

Yes, I have bad ideas – lots of them.  I’ve failed with writing ideas, seminar ideas, product ideas, and employee ideas.   Perhaps I should track them for a time period.  I suspect my ratio is about 15 bad ideas for every 1 that has real potential.

My advice:  Welcome your “bad” ideas.  They are your friends.  Treat them with the love and respect they deserve.

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.” – Emile Chartier

Have any bad ideas?

March 7, 2010

We all want the next great idea – the Frisbee, the Hula Hoop, the iPod, GPS or Tootsie Roll.  In working with people I often ask them to list 20 ideas for things they could imagine and would enjoy doing.  And then I watch them struggle as they filter each idea – often with a quick “Yes but” that destroys even the consideration of a possibility.

What if I asked you for a list of 20 things you would hate doing?  As soon as you have some life experience, knowing what you don’t want is often the most helpful tool in the process of clarification.

Maybe creating a list of 20 things that wouldn’t work is the best tool for finding the next great idea.  If you’re making adhesives, you don’t want a product that doesn’t stick permanently – but then you discover Post-It-Notes.  You wouldn’t want a magnetron that melted a candy bar when you got too close – but then you discover the micro-wave oven.  The last thing you want in your sterile labrotory is mold – oh wait, that’s penicillin.

Your mistakes, failures and bad ideas may be the very ingredients you need to uncover your greatest idea ever.  Could you learn how to generate more bad ideas?  It seems the good ones just magically slip though.  Don’t miss the opportunities brought to light by your mistakes.

“Sitting” for ideas — here’s how

September 1, 2009

Henry Ford once said he didn’t want executives who had to work all the time.  He insisted that those who were always in a flurry of activity at their desks were not being the most productive.  He wanted people who would clear their desks, prop their feet up and dream some fresh dreams.  His philosophy was that only he who has the luxury of time can originate a creative thought.

Wow!  When’s the last time your boss told you to quit working and do more dreaming?  Unfortunately, our culture glamorizes being under time pressure.  Having too much to do with too little time is a badge of “success.”  Or is it?

This week I heard from a gentleman who has spent the last three years hiking and living in an isolated old farm house.  He said he had experienced the “perfect storm” – divorce, unfulfilling job, nasty boss and a 33 year dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  After three years of “sitting” his thinking is now clear, his energy is renewed, his anger is gone, his creativity has been revived and he is ready to map out the next season of his life. 

The Apostle Paul took long walks between cities, using the time to think and talk.  Even when shipwrecked, instead of calling in a helicopter to get him to his next gig, he simply used the unexpected time to create with his mind.  Andrew Carnegie would go into an empty room for hours at a time, not allowing any interruptions, as he was “sitting for ideas.”

Thomas Edison would go down to the water’s edge each morning, throw out his line – with no bait – and then watch the bobber for an hour until his thinking was ready for the day.  Without long walks, an hour here and there of bush hogging, tinkering with my cars, or playing with a grandchild, my writing to bring inspiration to others would very quickly be reduced to dry theories and lifeless words. 

If you are feeling stuck, your solution may not be in doing more, but in taking a break from the “busyness” of life.  Want to be more productive — try doing  less. Go “sit” somewhere for a while!”


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  —  Henry David Thoreau

Free Ideas — and Free Money?

February 12, 2009

Okay – many of you that I talk to say you are still looking for your great idea.  Some of you have your idea but feel you need a chunk of money to get it off the ground.  Well, here’s a solution for both.  Billionaire Mark Cuban is offering to fund any business that can show a break-even cash flow in 60 days and be profitable in 90.  So – no problem getting any amount of money you need (no minimum – no maximum) – if in fact you have a solid business plan.  The Mark Cuban Stimulus Plan.  And if you still need an idea – no problem.  Seth Godin’s current group of 9 six-month MBA candidates just came up with a list of 999 Business Ideas – free for the taking.  I believe every single one except #789 has merit.  I’m going to study the entire list and find 3-4 to develop myself. 

No more excuses – plenty of ideas and plenty of money.  All you need to do is take action.  If you don’t have a money making business 90 days from now – look in the mirror to identify the roadblocks.

Finding Your Idea

April 21, 2008

Yes, I firmly believe there are still many opportunities to make millions selling “picks and shovels” in whatever gold rush is happening today.  Here are some ways to find your idea.

  • Improving an existing product or service is the surest and quickest way to success. Brand-new products or services are usually very risky.
  • Don’t look for get rich quick schemes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Look at the long-term perspective.
  • Decide to be excellent at whatever you do. This provides more leverage than any other factor.
  • Go to trade shows.  If you’re looking for an idea, just start looking at what is being done in that area.
  • Check products being sold in foreign countries.  Even in our global economy, it’s estimated that 80 percent of products are never sold outside the country where they’re produced.  Years ago a gentleman saw a wheelbarrow advertised in a magazine. It was fiberglass and plastic, superior to what was then available in the United States. He asked to be the U.S. distributor.  He took one sample wheelbarrow to a home and garden show and received over fifty thousand orders. He did not invent it, did not patent it, he simply asked to be a distributor for an existing product. With only a $5 profit margin, that’s $250,000 profit!
  • Pay attention to passing fads and trendy ideas.  People have made fortunes with the Pet Rock, hula hoop, politically related T-shirts and bumper stickers, sports theme items, and other fads that present a short window of opportunity.
  • As you travel, look, listen, and learn.  Orange Julius started on the West Coast. The guy who recognized this creamy orange drink as a growing phenomenon brought it back to the Midwest and made millions.
  • Make sure you find something you believe in, something you would buy yourself and use yourself, and would sell to your best friend.
  • Share your ideas. Don’t be secretive. Get input from everyone you know. Ideas are a dime a dozen. But the person who puts a plan of action together is the only one who will benefit.
  • Eighty-five percent of what you need to know about running a successful business you can learn from running a successful mail-order or eBay business. You can experiment with nearly all the necessary components of a traditional business and adjust your work model as you learn.

Revolutionary Insight


The inventors of Doggles-sunglasses designed especially for dogs-say they came up with their business brain wave after noticing their dog was squinting in the sunlight. Ken and Roni di Lullo of Midnight Creations tried their own glasses on their dog’s face . . . but nothing stayed on or worked well. After experimenting with sports goggles, the innovative husband and wife team developed a special pair to fit their dog perfectly. Other dog owners approached the couple when they were out walking, and a business was born. After a CNN story featured Doggles, sales quadrupled overnight, and these days the di Lullos have a $1 million business.

This is the normal process of innovation. A real person recognizes a real need and provides a solution. The most successful ideas often involve not a complicated invention process but just a simple modification of an existing product.

Examples from No More Mondays

Thanks for the bright idea – stupid!

December 27, 2007

One of the great thinkers of the world was Plato.  In describing his primary philosophy he compared people to prisoners chained in a cave.  There is only a small fire illuminating our environment.  The only reality we know is that tiny space in our cave.  But every now and then some cave dweller breaks free from the chains, steps out of the cave and is immediately blinded by the light.  He can only see a blurry version of the Truth because his eyes cannot adjust to what all he sees.  Eventually though, he will see a new reality that his old comrades cannot.  So the enlightened individual returns to the cave and tries to tell the others what they are missing.  Now here’s where it gets interesting.  Will he be welcomed with open arms?  Will his old comrades thank him for sharing his new insights and opportunities?  Not according to Plato.  He suggests that the “prophet will be killed by his former colleagues — which history appears to confirm.

So 2300 years later — are you surprised when your former co-workers think you’re stupid for suggesting you can survive without a “real job” with “real benefits?”  Or for believing that you can take your idea for making a better yo-yo and turn it into real income?    Or for building a straw house (like my son Kevin is doing in Colorado).  Don’t you remember the three little pigs?  Well, sometimes old fairy tales just aren’t true.

Don’t expect your great idea to be embraced by all the old cave dwellers.  There will always be whiners, naysayers, and small thinkers.  If you’re on a different path you can expect criticism, ridicule and laughter as they huddle around their little but familiar fire.  Just don’t let them kill you — or your idea.  Keep looking for more light.