The Genesis of a “Good Idea”

Archimedes has his “eureka!” moment

Popular culture portrays the good idea as a “eureka moment”: a brilliant insight that is excitedly shared with others who immediately see its value.

In the real world good ideas don’t actually work that way. I’ve spent much of the last year looking at ideas sites, contest sites, answers sites, “best of” compilations, and reading about innovation. Truly good ideas – those that pass the test of time and serve a useful purpose – are never widely recognized as a good idea at first. There are three reasons for this:

* First, most new ideas in fact aren’t good ideas. It is therefore easy to assume that no new idea is a good idea.

* Second, most people by nature don’t really seem to like new ideas. They like things they already understand. The typical reaction to something new is to be critical, no matter the idea.

* Third, and most important, a good idea addresses a difficult problem in a new way. If the idea were both obvious and effective, the problem probably wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Good ideas at first are always outcasts. They may be clung to only by a stubborn zealot with few supporters. With persistence the idea slowly wins converts. Eventually enough people agree with the idea that it become accepted (although never universally).

The Good Ideas site is a repository for ideas that have passed the test of time. It also, however, can serve as an idea incubator which, through crowdsourcing, can speed the process from new idea to good idea.

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