You’ll find a lot of crazy ideas in business. But few of us find the courage and the resiliency to bring those ideas to life in the marketplace. Much uncertainty remains about which crazy ideas succeed and which fail.
On The Small Business Radio Show this week we talk to Safi Bahcall. Bahcall works as a physicist and entrepreneur. And he explains which crazy ideas eventually win in his book, Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries”. Bahcall points out that almost 100 years ago, an editorial in The New York Times questioned an idea we now know to be sound.
Physicist Robert Goddard had just proposed rocket flight. And the Times suggested he “seemed to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” More specifically the paper said Newton’s law made rocket flight impossible. Forty-nine years later, The New York Times finally issued a retraction. It happened the day after the successful launch of the Apollo 11 rocket to the moon.
More recently early investors passed on both Facebook and Google, Bahcall said. No one thought there was any profit in social networks or in Internet search.
How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas
There are lot of big ideas that have changed the world which Behcall calls loonshots. But many of them are “often neglected and dismissed for decades and written off as crazy”. He believes that these loonshots or radical breakthroughs need to be nurtured by smaller teams that eventually lead to more mass acceptance. This is because in small groups, people can focus on radical outcomes, but in larger groups, they focus on individual advancement and perks.
Behcall believes that “innovating well is not so much about the individuals. Innovating well is a collective behavior, just like the slushing of liquids or the rigidity of solids is a collective behavior. And once you understand that collective behavior, you can begin to manage it. You can unlock the creative potential inside every person, every team, every group, every company. “
What hurts loonshots? According to Behcall, there are “the three deaths of the crazy idea. It’s important to keep in mind, as you’re pursuing your big idea, that no big idea ever worked the first time, the second time, or often even the tenth time. They all fail many times before they succeed. You need to prepare for that.” His second lesson is what he calls LSC: Listen to the Suck with Curiosity. This is the need to overcome the urge to initially defend and dismiss critics when attacked, and instead investigate this failure of acceptance with an open mind.
Listen to the entire interview on The Small Business Radio Show.
More in: Develop an Idea
I agree that it can be hard to not dismiss an idea off-hand. Try setting up a test that has a budget and a time frame for measuring success. If it has some legs, give it more budget and time. You don’t have to bet the farm on it from the beginning.
It is more about creating an idea but seeing the idea to success. It is about taking action on the idea.