Being able to determine whether or not an idea is worth your time and energy is difficult to do. As far as I can tell: nobody had been able to perfect the art of evaluating ideas.
I can’t predict how successful my ideas will be, but even well known creative geniuses, the Einsteins and Edisons and Jobs of history, have been known on occasion to reject ideas that later went on to be remarkable ideas. They equally made big bets on ideas that flopped.
Nobody really has this ability, despite what the world may have you believe.
Creative ideas are different by definition, it makes sense that we would struggle to effectively evaluate their potential when we first encounter them.
In 1858, for example, then president of the Linnean Society of London, Thomas Bell, boldly stated: “The year which has passed has not been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize the department of science.” Except that year was the same one Charles Darwin first published his theory of evolution and natural selection in. Bell failed to see how revolutionary Darwin’s could revolutionize the world, yet it went on to do exactly that.
Before he dreamed up a radical way to shift the assembly line into high gear, Henry Ford had the idea to create a commercial rubber plantation in the Amazon jungle. The business failed miserably. Despite what we might believe about Ford as a result of his historic success in the automotive industry, he too was prone to putting his time and energy into bad ideas.
Steve Jobs maybe best known as a creative genius for his work on the iPhone, but his history is littered with mistakes, from one of the worlds first palm computing platforms (the Apple Newton) to a mostly failed attempt at consumer computers (NeXT).
Everyone we tout as being a creative great stumbled their way through bad ideas in order to get the lucky few that made their lives or careers so grand. Their ability to pick out the great ideas from the not-so-great ideas is on-par with yours and mine.
There is no trick to picking great ideas: you either recognize their feasible value or you take a leap.
Of course experience and realm knowledge can help make decisions on which ideas are worthwhile and which are not somewhat easier, but even then you are relying on what you know you know and less of what you don’t know you don’t know. Creative ideas are difficult to gauge because they are new and different. It makes sense that the best creative thinkers among us are often dabbling around with multiple ideas. They might seem confident in their ideas (and, at some level, that confidence is remarkably important), but they are guessing just as much as you or I are.
Try not to worry too much about whether or not your ideas will be successful (I know I’m terrible at guessing).
The only real way to stumble on the best ideas is to have many ideas.