What’s the difference between a good idea and a bad idea? As an authorneer, you want to get really good at telling the difference before you put too much energy into a book or other projects. In this post, I’m going to explore some ways to evaluate your ideas.
Back to the question at hand: How to tell if your idea is good or bad.
How do you know your ideas are good?
There are a lot of possible answers. The easiest one is that a good idea is, well, good. A good idea resonates within its given community. It has legs. People like it. They get behind it. They support it. They own it.
Why? Because the idea fills a need in that particular community.
How do you know your ideas are bad?
Now, let’s look at a bad idea. It’s bad because it doesn’t resonate. It hits discordant notes within the community that it should benefit. Because of this, a bad idea doesn’t gain as much support as a good idea. The good idea is accepted, the bad idea isn’t.
Sometimes an idea’s goodness or badness takes time to tell
The process of discerning an idea’s goodness or badness isn’t relative or literal. Some communities can agree on what are perceived to be good ideas when in fact they are bad ideas. History is littered with examples of this behavior. Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries medicines were filled with substances that are now illegal. Cola soft drinks actually contained cocaine. Cough syrups actually contained heroin. Did they work? Of course, they did. Were they good ideas? At the time, yes. In retrospect, no.
Good ideas depend upon the social context they were formed in. Gladiator fights to the death were a solid idea back in ancient Rome. Today, an idea for these types of fights probably needs a bit of rethinking. In the same vein, human sacrifice was once a great way to avoid bad juju and guarantee an ample crop as well. Today, we know that the act of killing someone has no direct effect on the weather or the price of tea in China. The point here is that our accepted social behavior may have adapted, but the motivators that govern our actual behavior haven’t kept up the pace.
Your brain is an idea machine
Your brain will constantly observe the environment, take in information, and try to make connections between what was observed and what was already observed. These connections are the source of rational thought. They are also the source of creative thought.
The difference between rational and creative thought is direction. Rational thought will always try to match like to like. Creative thought, on the other hand, will sometimes try to match like with what seems to be unlike. Be open to these moments, no matter how ridiculous they may seem at the time. Ideas are formed when the creative brain realizes that what appeared to be like/unlike is actually like/like when seen from a new perspective.
So how do you tell if your idea is good or not?
Ultimately time will tell, but here’s a pretty good process for running your ideas up the flag pole:
- Does your idea tie in with your goals? In other words, will implementing this idea move you closer to or further from your goals?
- Do you have the resources — time, money, team — to implement your idea? I have plenty of ideas that I can’t implement. They may be good in a broader sense, but they aren’t good for me.
- Do the benefits your idea will bring outweigh the downsides? In other words, if the idea comes to fruition, will the perks be so awesome that they overwhelm any challenges or harm the idea brings about? Are you double sure about that?
- Does the idea fit with your overall brand? An idea may move you toward a goal; you may have the resources to implement it, and the benefits may outweigh any harm; but if the idea doesn’t fit with the brand you’ve been building, you should let it go. For example, I’ve had an idea for a couple of books that would really help people out, but they don’t fit in with any of the brands I’ve been building. So need to let them go.
- Does the idea make your heart sing? There is no point in putting all the effort into making an idea come to life if you don’t enjoy the journey, nor the results.