Our CEO was recently interviewed by the San Francisco Business Times and asked a number of thought-provoking questions about innovation: what sorts of companies struggle with innovation, why is it hard to get an innovation program started, and more. But one of the questions that I found most interesting is trying to describe “what makes a great idea?” After years of working at IdeaScale, here are some of the key qualities shared by great (valuable, launched, and celebrated) ideas.
Great ideas address a human want or necessity. Maybe there are some fabulous ideas out there that serving the greater needs of the grasshopper, but I haven’t heard about them. Which is why most great ideas have a psychological component – consider what human requirement is being satisfied by the idea. The more fundamental or foundational, the more likely it is that your idea is destined for greatness.
Great ideas incorporate trends. Because technology and concepts evolve and shift rapidly, most great ideas are taking advantage of that power in some way: maybe it’s an untapped market segment that’s been uncovered, maybe it’s a new way of delivering services, maybe it’s some powerful new technology, perhaps it’s a new belief or backlash from another new idea. The best ideas are paying attention to these trends and packaging them into their strategy somewhere.
Great ideas (at their core) are easy to explain. A lot of people think that to be successful, an idea needs to be complex. In fact, the full solution can be highly complex, but the foundation of those great ideas can be explained in an elevator pitch, a two sentence summary or in an even more abbreviated shorthand like “It’s the AirBnB of manufacturing” or “it’s like Reddit for ideas.” Relating a great idea to something that people already understand is a great way to create enough interest to get into the nuts and bolts of what makes your idea unique or powerful.
There are, of course, many other things that might be a part of a great idea (like a great team or a startling new technology), but these are just a few of the qualities we see as the most common denominators between them.
What do you think makes for a great idea?