Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why Having Too Many Ideas is Dangerous

Our latest intern at Behance arrived with a tremendous amount of energy and anticipation for the wild brainstorming that one would expect in such an environment. After all, we are a team that develops products and services for the creative community. We aspire to think out of the box. What could be more creative?

Our eager intern was clearly disappointed when she realized that we spend less than 1% of our time generating ideas. As our founder explained to her mid-way through her time in the office, “if anything, we have a surplus of ideas. Excess ideas are our greatest cost. What we need is fewer ideas.” In addition, our intern observed that the team essentially lives in “execution mode.” Not much fun.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for a creative group is to consume its creative juice sparingly. Creative people, regardless of their commitment to a cause, are more likely to exchange ideas than take steps to push any one idea forward. Why? Idea generation is an addiction. It is an engaging, brain-spinning indulgence that must be practiced in moderation.

Of course, you should take pride in the creative capabilities of your team. When you do engage in creative flow, enjoy it. Just be sure to compartmentalize it. Recognize that such occasions have the tendency to be intoxicating. New ideas have the potential to transform your life in wonderful ways, but they are also the most notorious source of distraction. Frustrated entrepreneurs and struggling creatives often trace back their problems to a moment when they decided to pursue too many things at once.

The steps for making ideas happen are interrupted by impaired judgment.
And, as we all know, our judgment is impaired when we get intoxicated. When rampant, new ideas will get you off track. So, drink in moderation. Hire “designated drivers” that are more cynical and have the power to keep you focused. And strive to make ideas happen, rather than just generate more ideas.

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