In my early days, someone once remarked to me that you really did not have to worry about someone stealing your ideas. Odds were, you would have to metaphorically shove it down someone’s throat to get them to use it. The introduction of change always starts with a new idea.
So what is the life of a new business idea and how does it evolve to bring about change?
I see five phases for a new idea. At any one of these phases the idea may die. As an idea progresses through the various phases, it becomes much easier to convince others to change and adopt the new idea.
Obviously one needs an idea to start. The idea usually comes about to fulfill a need. It may be something new, or the application of an existing practice in a new area, or some combination.
Introducing the idea to others is necessary to leave this phase. Many ideas stop here because of the fortitude, or lack thereof, of the idea’s creator.
As it is a new idea, it is generally seen as quackery. The quackery phase is where most ideas die. The more contrary to conventional wisdom, the more likely an idea will suffer death by quacking.
Selling an idea includes actually selling it as a product or service, or having an idea adopted internally, or both.
Getting an idea past the quackery phase is the hardest. It is here that leaders of organizations get that dazed look when you are describing the new idea. It is also where resistance to change starts. What would you believe, the tried and true use of leeches or this new snake oil?
Convincing someone else to try the idea is the exit from this phase.
Thought Leadership Phase
Once adopted (assuming it works) a new idea will enter the Thought Leadership phase. This is the sexy phase where it is new and exciting. As a thought leader it is time to face the world of withering criticism. Even with a few successes as supporting evidence, an idea may not spread. The conditions of success will be seen as exceptions rather than the rule.
The adoption of the new idea by others is the key to this phase. If a critical mass of adopters occurs, the new idea becomes the choice of experts.
As the creator of the idea you have become THE expert. You are no longer selling the idea, others are coming to you for your expertise. The idea is no longer cutting edge but is now seen as tried and true.
Most successful ideas end their journey here when it becomes the conventional wisdom. The shelf life of conventional wisdom depends upon the rise of new and different ideas.
It is at the end of the phase that as the creator of the idea, a graceful exit may be needed. As new ideas usurp your own, it is better to leave as a respected expert and not a crackpot clinging to former glory.
Some ideas leap from conventional wisdom to dogma. The idea becomes part of the culture and is accepted as a fact – there number zero, the Earth rotates around the sun, assembly lines, etc.
The idea usually outlives its creator.
Dislocation of the idea will be part of a larger cultural change. We are living through an era of significant dislocation as the Industrial age succumbs to the Information Age.
Where are your ideas?