Sunday, August 29, 2010

What's the Difference Between Having A Baby and a Great Idea?

"Where do these great ideas come from and who thinks them up?" the young, curious recently newly minted MBA asked me, an old and wizened corporate dude. The MBA guy was referring to a new process our corporation just put into place that actually wasn't working too well.  
A Great Idea?
I thought for a moment, wondering how much of the truth he could handle. "Many of the ideas are spawned in the executive offices on the top floor. When they are conceived, I believe that there are at least two people involved, but there can be many more," says I.  His eyes widen. I watch as some of his youthful academic beliefs shatter.

"What about the Great Man theory?" he asks, referring to the theory was popularized in the 1840s by Thomas Carlyle.  Ignoring his masters degree, I answer, "In the corporate world, there can be many fathers-- and mothers -- to an great idea. "

"Once the seed is successfully planted, more executives start noticing and encouraging the idea to take form. When enough time goes by, and a majority approve its potential, it's officially born."

"It then becomes an official member of the corporate environment, and communal teams swoop in from law, compliance, operations, systems and other areas to help raise it in in the corporate form it needs to be. They will nurture the idea, putting form and fabric on it so it can be tested. "

"The idea then morphs into a project," I press on. "At this point, it literally has a life of its own. It will grow up becoming either a product or a process and in all likelihood, will look nothing like the original idea."

"Then it can go through years of growing up. It gets tested, usually by people it won't ever have to use it. If the project fails a test or two, and may have to go back a step or two for more study," I inform.  "The idea either finally grows up, or unfortunately dies in the testing phase.  The life of an idea is extremely fragile and could even have passed away earlier."

"I’m not certain why this one didn’t," the young now-not-so-curious writer mutters as he walks away. "It sucks."

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