[This is the first of a several part series on my relationship and my approach to ideas.]
Part 1: What is your relationship to your ideas?
A fun exercise: you have 10 arrows, 1 target, you're 100 m away and there is an Olympian archer standing next to you. Your goal is to get as many arrows as close to the bulls-eye as possible. You have 5 minutes.
What will you do? How much time will you spend with the archer perfecting your approach, your angle, your release, etc? Remember you only have 10 arrows and 5 minutes.
Let’s replace arrows with ideas. Is it better to cycle through many ideas quickly in the hopes that many will cluster around the bulls-eye? Or is it better to take as much time as allowable and nail one solid idea down? My default approach to idea generation depends on my relationship with my idea, whether I’m in-like or in-love.
I find that if I’m in-love with an idea I’m much less attuned to objectively accepting any critique. If, however, I’m merely in-like with the idea, I find that a) I’m much more apt to accept all sorts of feedback (be it positive or negative), revisions, etc; and b) I’m much better positioned to create corollary or flanker ideas from the original. I postulate that if I’m in-love with my idea, I may be over-committed (after all, isn’t love blind?) and not able to listen to differences of opinion, whereas in-like, not so much. The downside to my approach is to be mindful of idea-indifference, where I simply don’t care one way or the other. If that’s the case, I toss that idea aside altogether.
Part 2: Time Constraints
So, what else?
During my brief stint as an adjunct professor many years ago, I recall that half of my students had dreams of one day starting their own business. One of my favorite parts of the teaching night was when I presented a random idea and asked the students to put on the brainstorm lens - "what else could you do with this...". Most of the time we would end up in the realm of the zany. Sometimes, however, we would actually land on something achievable and plant the seed. This is an homage to ideas - zany or otherwise.