If you've signed up for a subscription box or moved into a micro home in recent months, you've bought into an entrepreneurial idea. Business leaders are naturally curious, used to identifying pain points because their own ideas are already solving existing problems. If you suspect you're an entrepreneurial personality type, you may feel your brain is hardwired for ideas generation.
Perhaps you can't take the skin off an apple without attempting to redesign the peeler. Perhaps you walk into a shop and wonder how they source their stock, do a quick check of the signage for brand consistency and glance outside to check footfall.
As you launch and grow your business new ideas are easy to get hung up on and can be a distraction, so don't be impulsive. Stick them through this three-stage process – a stress test – to see how they stand up to scrutiny.
1. Destroy the idea
Prove your idea won’t work, or isn't needed, and you’ll end up with ideas that are stronger.
For a time we considered creating a bespoke video conferencing tool for our virtual assistants but it soon became clear the market is saturated with existing tools, so building our own would have been a pointless waste of time. Even so, at the time of having the idea, it felt like this feature was a priority for the business to be a success.
2. Give it time
If you’re impatient this is hard to do but, if you sit on a good idea, things emerge and answers appear that weren’t there when you first had the idea.
Last year, after seeing a Facebook virtual reality pitch at a conference, I walked away ready to join the bleeding edge. I wanted to introduce VR facilities to join our assistants and clients together even though they are many miles apart. The time test solved this one: months on and VR is struggling to make traction beyond the gaming industry, and especially in the business world. This would have been a major distraction for us had we moved on it already.
There are two main reasons ideas never amount to anything. The first is they simply aren't good enough, and the second is that the person with the idea cannot or does not execute them.
There are many people with good ideas who don't have the means, the will, or the courage to action them. Similarly, there are very talented business people who have no ideas, but are brilliant at the execution.
It probably took me five years to know for sure that my own business was a good idea. It morphed from an idea into a very non-scalable model with full-time virtual assistants employed in an office, before morphing again into the scalable model it is today with hundreds of freelance virtual assistants based all over the UK and USA. Execution was all about minor incremental changes and, importantly, careful idea management - really putting each idea to improve the service through the three tests.
If the iPhone has taught us anything it is that, in business, execution never really stops. Apple's smartphone is a cracking example of an idea that has withstood the test of time, and that continues to be re-executed constantly, arguably taking a step closer to perfection every year. Incidentally, the Japanese call this process of continuous improvement 'kaizen', which translates literally as 'change for the better' - a business approach which is well worth reading up on.
Of course, this three-stage stress test is not dissimilar to the invention process. As Sir James Dyson said: “When you’re experimenting, you’ll often have one idea at the start of the design process, and arrive at a completely different one by the end.”
That's what you're looking to do. If your initial idea really was strong enough, it will withstand.
But many ideas are destined for improvement. Listerine, for example, started life on the shelf as an antiseptic, sold as both floor cleaner and a treatment for gonorrhoea. But it wasn't a runaway success until it was marketed as a treatment for bad breath.
Many of us have ideas every day but very few of us handle them in a meaningful way. Challenge them, give your ideas time, then force yourself to execute before making incremental improvements. I appreciate this can be daunting and demotivating but it’s better to have a process than contribute to the scrap heap of the millions of ideas that are never realised or developed.