Often the single thing that sets good ideas apart from bad ones is simply someone believing in the former.
When I first set out to start a blog about creativity – solely about creativity – the common response was: “Oh.” It took a lot of prodding to convince anyone that a blog on such a singular topic could go anywhere.
Even today, some six years after I started writing here, there are still those who aren’t so sure about the idea. Despite the blog having been mentioned on the likes of Lifehacker, Adobe’s blog, 99u, and others.
Good ideas are not adopted automatically. But I’d wager that it’s the passion of the originator that makes adopting good ideas easier to identify to those who otherwise might see the idea as bad. Of course, this is only true as long as the idea isn’t blatantly silly, impossible, or otherwise downright harmful.
The touchscreen is a beautiful example of this point.
That screen you likely use on your phone or iPad, the same type of technology powers ATMs, car navigation systems, and retail systems. But, despite having the first working concept of a touchscreen having been invented well over 36 years ago, the technology wasn’t globally viewed as a good idea until sometime in the last six years!
First experiments of a touchscreen technology began way back in the 1960s. In the late 1970s, the first production concept of a touchscreen was filed as a patent by the inventor Samuel Hurst. It wasn’t until around 2007, when Apple released the iPhone, that touch screens became a mainstay staple in households around the world.
Companies like General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, and other giants had the technology for years, decades even, and they couldn’t make it seem like a good idea to consumers.
It took Apple’s swooning, multi-million fanbase of dedicated Mac and iPod owners to form the tipping point of touchscreen technology as a good idea.
Post-it notes, eBay, Redbox, and electricity are other examples of ideas that seemed bad before their time. Most were violently criticized before someone had the passion and energy to make the ideas and, fortunately for us, turn them into glaring successes.
Paul Graham seems a lot of bad ideas. He sees a lot of good ones too: he works as an investor behind one of the largest and most well-known angel companies in the world, Y Combinator. Paul has helped guide businesses and entrepreneurs on how to identify ideas worth pursuing. And his track record is pretty solid, supporting and guiding companies like Airbnb, Justin.tv, Dropbox, Wufoo, Reddit, and others. One of Paul’s golden nuggets of wisdom for idea-seekers:
“If a good idea were obviously good, someone else would already have done it. ”
Good ideas are commonly bad ideas that someone has taken the time and effort to find the good in. That’s not always the case, of course not, but often the only thing separating a good idea from a bad one is finding the places where both definitions overlap, then putting in the time to prove it.
To quote computer pioneer Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.”