It’s been said that the average person has a million-dollar idea everyday. While that might be a slight over exaggeration, it is probably fair to say that everyone has good ideas that can solve problems in today’s world with some frequency. The most difficult thing is trying to figure out if a good idea is a good idea for you. How do you know?
Us visionaries can get emotionally attached to every idea we have. We see a solution to a problem in life or the marketplace, and immediately believe it is a great idea that will change everything. There are some critical steps, however, that exist between having the idea and changing the world. We must take the time to weigh the cost.
I know a thing or two about this as I have chased every bad idea I’ve had with the same vigor as every good idea. Subsequently, I have developed benchmarks that help me filter the good from the bad to ultimately determine whether or not it is right for me.
Does the solution or product resonate with your life goals? This is one of the most important questions. We only have one life to live. We need to live that life focused on doing the things we will be glad we did when our life ends. Time is the one thing we cannot get back. When you spend it, it is gone forever. So, making sure that you are spending your life working on projects that will ultimately bring you happiness and satisfaction is paramount. Time is the greatest opportunity cost to any project we work on.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. Does your idea play well to your strengths? When we work within our strengths, the work is generally easier and we have a greater opportunity for success. It probably does not make sense to start an accounting firm when you need you must remove your shoes to count to 20. This sounds obvious; however, I have attempted to start companies that require a high degree of organizational and detail skills because the idea was good but it was not a good idea for me.
Our experience in life is unique. Our experience informs our decisions, how we solve problems and where we can ultimately add the most value to others. Is it possible to start a company in an industry in which you have no experience? Of course you can. However, you will tend to be a lot more successful by focusing in areas where your experience is strong.
Similar to experience, your network matters. I once started a food and wine T.V. show. I hired several companies and developed a pilot for $40,000. After it was all over, I had no idea how to sell it or get it in front of an audience. I lacked both the experience and the network to make it successful. It ended up being the most expensive dinner that I have ever bought.
You’ve heard the terms, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You need to be willing to honestly look at the market to see if what you are wanting to develop is already solved for. How big is the market gap? Are there other products and services that can do the same thing, even if not exactly the same way? The more unique your product or solution, the better its chance for success.
Do the math! The best solution is not worth bringing to market if there are not enough customers to justify a business. When you look at the target customer, can you get access to enough of them to pay yourself and a staff? How many people really need to buy what you have? It is imperative that you know how many people really need what you have and whether or not that number can justify your livelihood.
Now, Bring It All Together
Again, we all have great ideas. You may even have a great idea but determine that you are absolutely the wrong person to bring it to market because of other factors. Getting from good idea to great idea requires that you are willing to honestly look at each of the above factors and assess how the idea relates to your ability to pull it off. Then comes the toughest part – you must be willing to walk away from good ideas and wait for the great one.
Below you will find a simple tool that will be helpful in filtering your ideas. Each category is described above. Simply rate each category as it relates to you, add up the total points you have circled and use the scoring chart to determine whether you should give it a shot or run like heck!