[dropcap]I[/dropcap] suddenly awoke from my seemingly deep sleep cycle in the middle of the night to furiously jot down my latest inspiration
I had always imagined that great business ideas would come spontaneously, and that an idea would brilliantly arise in my mind while I was sleeping or dreaming or something like that. If this was the case, learning to become a better innovator would be simpler. Yet, ideas are not arbitrary. Although some (like the flux capacitor) are born spontaneously, most ideas, like relationships and studies, need a lot of work.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Al-Talib about executing ideas – and why an idea needs to be executed for it to be worth something. However, before we can think about executing ideas, it is equally important to generate them.
The following are three barriers to idea development. If we can correct, or avert, these problems, we can start generating ideas.
1. Thinking your idea is not good enough
One of the bigger deterrents to coming up with good ideas is our lack of confidence in our own ideas. Whatever the reason may be: whether we think we’re too young or that we don’t have the grades for it, we often simply feel our ideas aren’t good enough. I’ve definitely been there. The worst part is we fail to realize that we all have the potential to come up with great ideas.
Issues that we need to address: lack of confidence, and not realizing our own potential.
Possible solutions: we should start participating and sharing our thoughts in group discussions. Realize that no one will care if we mess up in a class presentation, so we should try our best not to get nervous (most people are worried about how they’re going to do on their presentation and could care less about what happens to others). Read motivational books like How to Win Friends and Influence People.
2. Thinking your idea is too big or unrealistic
Another hindrance to developing an idea is thinking that our ideas are too big or unrealistic. If this is any consolation to motivate us to pursue our ideas even if they may seem unrealistic, let’s take solace in the example of billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk. Musk’s plans and ideas are perfect examples of what anyone would think is the height of an unrealistic idea: human beings living on Mars? Or the infamous tube-like transportation system which will take passengers from LA to SF in less than half an hour? You see, Musk perseveres with his ideas no matter how sci-fi and fictional they may seem. SpaceX is doing great. And in about a month, he’s going to announce the plans for Hyperloop. It is crazy how his ideas seem out of a sci-fi movie, and completely unrealistic, yet Musk pursues them and this is the key for his success.
A couple years ago, I fell prey to my doubts about a seemingly unrealistic idea. I worked with a group of people to develop potential business ideas and we came up with an app idea that we thought was pretty good. Unfortunately, due to a variety of doubts, such as, “this seems too big for us to achieve” and, “ this will be too difficult to implement”, we didn’t pursue our idea. Now, I look back to it and think that had we just pursued it, it could have easily competed with Instagram. But Alhamdulillah, no regrets, this was meant to happen, and it was a great learning lesson.
Issues we need to address: develop an idea even if it seems unrealistic.
Possible way to address this: Knowing that, even if at the end of it, the idea really does fail, and is unrealistic, this process will serve as a good chunk of life experience, and can be a good lesson from which we can derive some benefit. Besides, it can get our brains thinking in the right direction, inshaAllah. I know this may not seem very practical, but if we are optimistic with all that we do and know that even if we’re getting nothing out of doing something, the experience is good enough, we can be motivated.
3. Environment tells you that you cannot achieve it
How many incidents exist, of people in the past who were criticized, mocked and ridiculed because of their seemingly unrealistic ideas? There are many. Even in our very tradition, our beloved Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, went through this. His community ridiculed the Prophet’s (pbuh) message and the ideas that he (pbuh) advocated for over and over again.
Our family, friends, and society play a critical role in the way we develop and generate ideas. Often it is our surroundings that shoot down our ideas, call us unrealistic, and keep us from pursuing our dreams. However, we can take small steps to change our environment into one that is supportive, conducive, and motivating.
Issues: our environment may mock and bring down our ideas.
Possible solution: surround yourself with people who discuss ideas. I’m not saying we can change our families, of course, but what we can do is become the person to influence our circles to begin discussing ideas.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article to discover ways to begin generating ideas.
Featured photo: “09 04 22,” © 2009 Matt Jiggins, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en