“I’ve got a great idea for a book,” someone told me recently… and then went on to recount what is possibly the worst idea I’ve ever heard for a book.
I wished them good luck and declined the “opportunity” to work on the book with them.
I hear this fairly commonly: “I have a great idea for a book” or “I have a great idea for a business”, only to be told something that is a mundane and/or cookie cutter as a Ford Taurus.
There are a lot of ideas out there… but they’re not all as great as the thinker thinks. For a hundred (or a thousand?) ideas, there is one that has some merit. And for a hundred (or a thousand) ideas with merit, there is one that can get off the ground. Not all opportunities are created equal. Many opportunities are compelling (at least to the person dreaming them up) but not all are feasible (maybe there is no market or the numbers just don’t work).
Perhaps what makes it particularly challenging is that the people who have experience turning ideas into real businesses understand this balance between compelling ideas and feasible ideas, while people who have never gone through the painful process of turning ideas into real businesses just don’t understand the balance. That second group thinks that a compelling idea is a feasible one.
This concept is made real week after week on shows like Shark Tank — where people bring compelling ideas to the investors… but not always feasible ideas. And we are entertained as the “sharks” tear apart the idea for its lack of feasibility.
A Business Insider article called Worst Ideas for Apps does a great job of talking about this from a few different angles. The article lists several app ideas that were compelling ideas but just not feasible. But the real gold in this article is buried at the bottom of the article when they list a couple of ideas that they called about regularly. In fact, the last bullet sums it up perfectly:
[quote]People hear about Internet startups and founders striking it right with a hot new website. They assume these things are trivial to build and can easily be built overnight, if only someone could come up with the right idea first.[/quote]
But there are a ton of ideas and they require a mix of other things to become more than an idea.
So how do you make sure that your dream of building an app, writing a book, or starting a business actually has legs?
Test the idea first: Run a smaller version. Put together a beta model. Write a few blog posts. TRY it on a small scale and see what happens.
When someone tells me they want to write a book, I tell them to start writing blog posts. In my experience, if you cannot sustain a blog after 2 months (which is often the case), then you’ll never get that book off the ground.
And when someone tells me they want to start a business, I tell them to build a website or blog about it and start driving traffic to it. Gather names on an email list. Ask the audience for feedback.
This is exactly what I did for a press release writing service I built a few years ago. I thought it was a great idea but I wasn’t sure how feasible it was. So I created a really small trial and discovered very quickly that my market wanted to speak to me before getting their press releases. That was fine but it wasn’t the purpose of the business I was trying to build (
We live in an amazing time when you can start up a small business/brand/website/app/blog very inexpensively and test the results before moving into something larger. It hasn’t always been that way (a hundred years ago, it would have been hard to start a factory or a railroad as a test model).
I’ve come to learn that there are a bazillion compelling ideas out there. And with the right minds and sweat and technology and investment, perhaps many of them could work. But compelling ideas that are feasible and can turn into an actual running (profitable) business or app or book? Those are beautifully rare.