Is It Possible to Have Too Many Ideas?

Not if you can develop a good process for managing them.

[This originally ran at INC.com here.]

Some investors hate it when you bring them more than one idea. In their minds, this equates to a lack of focus. They see a person with a lot of ideas as some type of mad scientist, and they assume he or she isn’t a good businessperson.

I’m not like this. (For one thing, I myself enjoy the curse/blessing of having a million ideas.) The question is, what do you do about your idea flow? Do you have a process for managing it?

Last week I spent a too-quick hour with a gentleman who moved into the Research Triangle area from New York City a few years ago. He’s one of those idea guys. He’s started a number of businesses, and they have been successes. (He beats himself up because they aren’t successes of the massive and highly visible sort, but I think he’s looking at things the wrong way. More on that sort of thinking at some other point.) At the moment, he is working at a very large local company, but he clearly strives for something more.

He came to me with a couple of new ideas, and was wondering how he might get these to market. I first asked him why he decided to pitch these ideas today.

Here is his process, as he describes it:

  • He gets an idea. He lets it marinate. If he is still thinking about the idea the next day, he moves it into what he calls the maybe folder.
  • Then he gives himself permission to spend some more time thinking about the customer set, how to make money, and other related issues. In other words, he thinks about whether this is a real business.
  • Then he starts to explore the idea with others. That is where I came in.

I gave him kudos for developing an idea process that works for him. I hope he takes a jump on one of the ideas he described to me—or one from the next batch. I think I would be there for him.

I would love to hear how you process your ideas!

Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. One of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory (35 investments across 7 cohorts), founder and MC of the Big Top Reverse Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities. Currently EIR @ Techstars with Brad Feld ~ Startup Communities, to help community leaders around the world grow their startup community.

2 comments On Is It Possible to Have Too Many Ideas?

  • Hi Chris, like you, I have lots of ideas, most of which are written off quickly, not because they are particularly bad ideas, but because the first pass think through reveals the depth of analysis needed to see if it makes any sense. Hmmm… here’s an idea (what a surprise): how about a blog site for discarded ideas? Just because you or I don’t have time to explore it, doesn’t mean somebody else couldn’t take it and move forward. We could call it “Idea Dumpster” and anybody could rummage through it to find something salvageable, or toss something in it they don’t need. Idea crowdsourcing if you will. This is the first post.

  • I like it at first pass. Anyone want to take a shot at this? You have Mark and I as supporters. 😉

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