There is a natural selection to ideas. Ideas can be strengthened or weakened, launched or killed outright. Any organization is a Galapagos of ideas in various stages of evolution.
The Survival of the Fittest law applies too, yet what is deemed “fittest” is in the eye of the organization. Very often, “fittest” means “safest”. Those ideas are smaller than the ideas that are originally conceived.
The best ideas are the product of many touches. In an organization, the lone genius is a myth. Instead, there is a synergistic effect where ideas are expanded or tightened, made bigger or made sharper. We all create and we all critique.
The job for someone championing an idea is not to complain when the climate is inhospitable, but instead to keep advancing the evolution of the idea.
The best approach I’ve seen is to get the ideas out of the organization and into the open, as in small stakes in-market tests. As WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg said, “usage is like oxygen for ideas”. The market and the consumer are better judges of “fittest” than we are.
Here’s another cartoon I drew five years ago on the Survival of the Safest.
11 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Leah G says
Love it! And shares the importance of illustration in the evolutionary process.
Consider if the guy in the center had started describing multiple arms, uncovered fire, diffused light, a certain elegance, hanging from a ceiling, etc. We’d certainly only have a choice of lightbulbs! So important to see what we may find difficult to imagine.
I could not agree more with this week’s cartoon or your message. We have a rule within my team, that when we are ideating you cannot shoot down any ideas because you see ways they may fail, or because they cannot be done. No matter the idea, no matter how out of scope it may seam, it could cause someone to think of an idea they otherwise would not have, or others may build on it as your lightbulb-to-chandelier image illustrates. It can be difficult to work without one’s ‘business’ hat on for a day or an afternoon; but without doing so truly great ideas can easily be lost.
I wonder if the same people who ask themselves, “Why didn’t we think of that?” are the same ones who naysay the ideas that aren’t ‘safe?’
Patricia L. Campbell says
Your piece was timely for me as I’m officially reorganizing my LLC to an L3C in my state of Maine today. Your cartoon and text gave me an increased sense of hope that I’m on the right track not to have given up on my idea and Matt Mullenweg’s quote offers a huge kick in my pants about not keeping things to myself.
I love your cartoons and accompanying text. Thank you! (And thanks to Seth Godin for hooking me onto your cartoons long ago.)
Kris Hull says
One of the things that strikes me about this is that Darwin believed that natural selection wasn’t about survival of the strongest, but rather the one most able to adapt to changes in environment. Applied to marketing, I think it’s important to realize this need for adaptability while maintaining the essence of the idea.
Key to avoid being overly influenced by the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person in the Organisation) – just because the senior manager says something, doesn’t make it the best idea.
If Edison stopped with the safest idea, we might not have understood this cartoon at all!
great cartoon again!
that’s why we indeed need to communicate with the customer and with each other during the process.
when i saw this cartoon, this stereotype came to my mind:
person left is engineer: i have an idea (pling!)
2nd is marketeer: i see all kind of options, i like this idea too!
in middle is sales: i want to sell this, this is a great product/ solution. market want this!
2nd from right is finance: i see good margin, low risk, low investment. great!
person right is buyer/ purchaser: i can buy this at low cost. perfect!
so yes, we need to validate and test/ experiment on the market. and considering different perspectives is good. if we would all have the same view, we would never build upon each other, sharpen ideas and bring them to live..!
Everyone has a different perspective of what a good idea is. The ‘brightness’ of an idea is relative to the ‘vision’ of the originator.
So every parent, teacher, lecturer, manager, leader and entrepreneur should encourage all they influence to grow their ability to ‘look’ further without too much ‘reflection’ on current surroundings.
This way the few won’t have to drive the many and the many will be empowered to build a ‘brighter’ future for us all!
Bill Aho says
New ideas frighten us because we can never fully understand them. They can’t be analyzed with time-worn metrics. We can’t anticipate how they will ripple the pond. New ideas always involve a bit of a leap into the unknown. And we fear the unknown.
Some great ideas in this post. I’m new to the blog but plan to use it for my high school newspaper and yearbook classes. The toughest thing to teach is the willingness to accept new ideas and suggestions from outside your comfort zone, both to the students and school administrators who are way too quick to dismiss new ideas. Thanks!
Great insights, everyone, thanks! I learned a lot from you this week on the factors that go into an idea as it’s brought to life. This week’s signed print goes to Kris Hull. I love the insight around the need for “adaptability”. Ideas shouldn’t remain static as it passes through an organization. It should evolve and change. The key is that the idea becomes stronger, not weaker, at each step. Many thanks!