SEP Blog Battle: Good Idea, Bad Idea

November 1, 2012

Bad Ideas

We all have them

It’s true, as much as we hate to admit it. I’ve had my fair share, and I’m bound to have even more. That doesn’t mean I’m going to share these ideas with the world or run off and implement things now, but it does mean that I have an incomplete understanding of the framework in which I’ve had the idea, which is always a given. The key here is learning to accept that these bad ideas are going to happen.

But Why?

As I somewhat mentioned before, Bad Ideas come from ignorance of the system at hand. The idea works mostly because of a flaw in your understanding. There are cases when this knowledge is almost always incomplete, but a bad idea can almost always be traced back to this.

What do I do?

Getting better ideas isn’t quite a science, but there are some things you can do to get better ideas when working within a set system. I’ll be taking quite a few ideas from Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, since it’s the book I’ve been reading through at the moment and it contains quite a few helpful nuggets.

  1. Identify Bad Ideas – Talk about some of your ideas with someone more knowledgeable about the system than you. Odds are pretty good that they’ve either considered your idea or have thoughts about it.
  2. Find out why they’re bad – Learn from someone or something. Expand your knowledge of the system; it’s the only way you’ll know better for next time.
  3. Accept that you’ll have them – It’s going to happen. The key is to learn from your mistakes and grow. If you don’t, your problem space for bad ideas is as large as ever.
  4. Reflect on Failure – If you’ve gotten to the point of implementing and it’s failed, find out why. Was this failure a result of the implementation or with the idea. Consider this and reflect often.

Good Ideas

Coming up with good ideas is hard in different problem spaces because the system is ever-changing.

What do I do?

  1. Have lots of ideas – The more ideas you have, the better things will be. The brain is a tricky beast and ideas will come and go sporadically. Capture those thoughts and reflect on them daily. Be sure to have some means handy to capture no matter where you are.
  2. Learn from the good ideas of others – Find out what makes them good ideas and learn from their successes. This will help you refine your ideas and consider options you might not have before.
  3. Try to identify patterns – Learning a few software patterns and when to apply them is always useful because we’ve identified them as generally good ideas. Pattern Recognition is one of the steps towards becoming an expert in a given field, and learning to apply those intuitively will get you where you need to be.
  4. Reflect on Success – Learning from yourself is one of the most important skills you can learn. Think back to your last side project that when well and take from it what you can. There’s probably more than meets the eye.

The Bottom Line

Charles Darwin has been quoted as saying, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” Don’t let this happen to you – try to ‘Know what you don’t know’. Continue refining your ideas and don’t be afraid to forget about a loser. Iterate on the ones you feel have potential and cycle back through some of your failures from time to time. Learning is the key to decreasing the bad and increasing the good. Improving your knowledge of the problem space makes you more valuable, and it can’t hurt your ideas either.