The first step in innovation is to have an idea. The second is to value your idea. That is, to treat it like it is important. That sounds simple but it's not, because when we have an idea we don't necessarily know whether it's brilliant, ridiculously stupid or somewhere in between. The temptation is often to think it's no good and to let it go.
When an idea comes, there's usually an initial surge of excitement, but soon the doubts set in:
- ‘It's probably no good.'
- ‘There must be a problem with it that I haven't seen yet.'
- ‘What if it doesn't work?'
- ‘How could I think of a great idea?'
- ‘Surely if it was a good idea, someone else would have already thought of it.'
It's normal to doubt the quality of your idea. Do you think those who first thought of the wheel or frozen yoghurt or the scarf knew immediately they were onto a winner? They probably experienced the same doubts as you and I do, and the same mixture of excitement and uncertainty.
Over the years many people have approached me and said, ‘You know that thing you had on The New Inventors … I thought of that years ago'.
I always say, ‘Great! Well done!', because thinking of a better way of doing things is always worthy of congratulation. Then I ask, ‘And what did you do when you had the idea?'
And often they will pause, look at the ground and say, ‘Nothing'.
Their idea had never gone beyond being just that — an idea. They had never discovered how good it could get, because they hadn't valued it highly enough ...