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5 Ways to avoid the happy distraction of a very deep rabbit hole

In business, it doesn’t take long until you get to thinking about ‘new ways to do stuff. New ideas for products, services, and new opportunities always come to mind. And the shiniest ones seem most alluring.

The challenge is sorting these new ideas into the ones you keep, and the ones you don’t.

And then there is the tricky question of implementation.

In this article

Chasing shiny ideas can be a happy pursuit leading you down very deep rabbit holes.

For many of us, success in business depends upon knowing which new ideas to pursue, which to resist, and which to dump.

Without a structure to manage these shiny lures, they can quickly cast the spell of 'procrastination through the pursuit of continued and never arriving perfection'.

Home truths

Companies don’t buy ideas; they buy products, processes, frameworks, tested prototypes, research, customer-supported insights, beta versions and opportunities.

  • An opportunity is much more important than an idea because an opportunity is an idea that can be implemented.

The hardest part of any new business-grade idea is its implementation and bringing it to life. All business ideas are brilliant before they’re implemented. Ideas have to be thought through before they earn the right to become opportunities.

Few ideas make it.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” Mike Tyson

Workable new ideas usually involve people with a specific insight, drive and often a mild (sometimes wild) obsession about a particular issue.

  • Progressing ideas to opportunity status first requires additional structured thinking.
  • It’s your ability to connect the idea to a customer and entertain, inform or fix their problem, that has them exchanging your new idea for their hard-earned attention, time, and money.

Five ways to see if your idea or an opportunity is worth pursuing

1. Learn how to explain it to a 6-year old

If you can’t explain it in granular form, you either don’t know enough about it or you haven’t thought about it sufficiently yet. Go back and think some more. If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough, yet.

2. Make a list and be checking it twice

Not every idea that comes into your head is list-worthy. Most good ideas involve a maturing process of time and reflection. Keep an ideas journal, spreadsheet, or if you’re a visual learner like myself, keep a scrapbook of your mind maps and doodlings as you tease out ideas and look for patterns. Forcing yourself to translate new ideas into words and picture maps will lighten your cognitive load and free up mental space. After all, that’s the reason why we make shopping lists.

3. Find a mentor who can expand your thinking

A mentor can help unbundle your ideas into smaller more manageable bite-sized pieces. People usually get stuck unpacking their idea into a sequence of events, smaller steps, and manageable pieces so having a second set of non-emotionally connected eyes on a new idea is vital.

4. Make a fantasy sales brochure to test the idea first

Ask your suppliers and straight-talking friends and family for feedback on the idea. If it’s a complex idea, make a fantasy slide deck, and prototype the customer journey in an infographic. Fake it before you actually make it. Book editors advise ‘always be prepared to kill your darlings’ and ruthlessly scrap your lesser work to get on with your better work. So be prepared to …

5. Create a minimal viable product

Because sometimes you have to feel what it looks like. There’s no point in building a product just to find that nobody wants it. If your idea is worthy to leave the list and be given a shot at life on its own, draw up the plans and product specs for a minimum viable product and see if you can use it, attract interest to it and sell it.

Then and only then, make it.

The last word

That idea you have, you know, the one that will make you millions? If it’s any good, you’re probably not the only one to have it. Right now you’re in a race with somebody else to implement it.

Drew Browne Modern Small Business thought-provocateur
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