What’s the price of your idea?

I like to start my day by reading.

Lately I’ve been reading the book Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor and author who has capitalized on the theory of “Jobs to Be Done.” The theory essentially says that all great innovation comes from serving a particular “job” that people have in their lives.

A job is contextual and cannot be clearly identified by raw data, you’re not going to come up with the next big thing by looking at research or statistics. Instead, big ideas come as a result of fulfilling a job people will hire it to do. The job I hire my iPhone to do is connect me to the world and serve as a powerful tool anywhere I go, any time of the day. I hire my car to get me from point A to point B reliably and comfortably.

Jobs theory an interesting thing to think about and it’s had me wondering how we might gauge our creative ideas by what “job” they are attempting to solve. Or, another way to think about it, is whether or not we would pay for our own ideas.

If you have an idea you think is worthwhile, you can gauge the value by asking yourself whether or not you’d pay real money for it.

In his book, Clayton says: “What’s important is that you focus on understanding the underlying job, not falling in love with your solution for it.” The same goes for the ideas we have. Too easily we fall in love with our ideas without really taking a look at what it is they’re trying to offer us or others.

Is your idea novel but not necessarily useful? That’s not creative, that’s imaginative. The inverse—an idea that is useful but not unique—is undoubtedly important and valuable to have, but there may be a better way to utilize it.

To be creative, both unique and valuable, our ideas must serve a particular purpose. We can find that purpose by focusing on the “job” people—or us, ourselves—might hire or otherwise pay the idea to accomplish.

A painting can be sold to inspire or cause pause in those who observe it. A blog post can be sold to help motivate or spark new forms of thinking in the reader.

Whatever your idea is: ask yourself if you, or your audience, would pay something for it. That’s a good way of estimating creative value.