Why Many Great Ideas Come To Nothing

5 min read

It is easy to be convinced that coming up with ideas is challenging. After all, we have a range of products and services already available to us.

Most people have this idea in their heads that their ideas have to be original to work. They dream of a day when they search for something on google, and no results come back. 

Although this would never happen, you should be slightly worried if it does. Not only does it mean you have wandered across something no one is searching for, but it also means you could have probably found a dead end. 

In fact, many people give up on their idea before they even try to start something. Thanks to social media and connections, people get discouraged if they see someone in their market doing significantly better than them. 

It is also easy to get turned off by your idea if many people complain about trying to solve the problem. It seems that your solution has already been tried, or too many people are trying to solve it. 

However, we know that not all great companies are original or complex. Funny enough, it is often the simple ideas that add the most value to your customer. 

Amazon started off as an online book store. There is nothing revolutionary about that. In fact, you could argue that big players such as Waterstones had the ability to start an online book store themselves. 

The billion-dollar company Twitch started off as an online reality show. It started off as Justin TV, and users could only watch the life of Justin and no one else. Now, it is a platform where gamers and friends meet to have fun online. 

Plus, It is not like Uber was anything special. It started off with two people not being able to get a cab at the time they wanted. Taxi services already existed, but they just wanted a way to book taxis on their phone when they wanted it.

These problems were simple, and their ideas were not too original. And many ideas are being produced every day. However, very few of them are being pursued and turned into something. 

Research has shown that different cultures shape the way people think about entrepreneurship. In some places, entrepreneurship is booming, and everyone is trying to start a startup (Silicon Valley). In other places, it is hard to start anything, and many ideas come to nothing (Colombia). 

In my own company, I see the exact same thing happen to many innovative individuals. People are more than happy to come up with ideas but seem unwilling to pursue them. 

A common reason for people dropping their ideas is a lack of time. After all, time is one thing we can never get back, and higher priorities often bombard our days. However, do you remember when Uber, Twitch or Airbnb launched? The odds are probably not because they were small and took years to become the companies they are today. 

A common misconception about startups is that it needs to be perfect the first time. But most great companies started with a small and low-cost solution they could get feedback on. 

We live in a world with more enablers to help us produce great ideas than ideas themselves. The enablers include tools, services, courses and powerful technologies that can all empower us to create.

However, I have found that enablers are only part of the story. We must have the right culture to empower entrepreneurial behaviour. So, here are four ways negative culture impacts our ability to innovate and pursue ideas.

Culture & Our Response to Failure

Studies have found that children from different backgrounds respond to failure differently. Due to cultural expectations and dynamics, some children are less likely to respond to failure in a positive way. 

In some cultures, the penalty for failure is more severe than in others. Some children go through physical torment for not attaining the standard required, and some are embarrassed and shamed by their peers. 

In high-performance cultures, being seen as a failure is the last thing we want to do. We would feel embarrassed and less than those around us. Unfortunately, we are starting to build a high-performance culture that is leading to unrealistic expectations of people. 

We now believe we need to work a crazy amount of hours to obtain success. And our LinkedIn profiles need to be filled with a great deal of experience and expertise to be validated. However, all of this is driving us to fear failure rather than embrace it.

Culture & What Is Important

What we believe to be important is derived from our cultural influences. The values we hold close to us tend to be the ones we seek to pursue and become in our lives. And many of those values come from the society we are a part of. 

When it comes to entrepreneurial pursuits, what we teach about successful entrepreneurs will inevitably pave the path for those coming. That is why it is essential we have loud positive voices and not noisy negative ones.

I grew up in a world that taught that entrepreneurs were super intelligent individuals that were able to find a niche. Although it is nice to look up to people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, it is not the only picture of success we have. 

The problem is that we still see this mainstream view of entrepreneurs today. Many people do not believe they can achieve what they place value in and, as a result, give up.

Culture & How We Work

One of the things that we can often miss when it comes to culture is its impact on how we work. It is easy to see how culture affects what we do, but it also shapes how we do things. 

Many of the processes we put in place are due to our cultural values. We may value structure over flexibility, so we make decisions to keep things under control. Potentially, we may desire experience over competence, so we ensure seniors are always leading. 

Our culture determines the things we value and how we attain those things. That is why some cultures are geared towards certain careers, such as engineering or medicine. However, this can be damaging to an individual’s desire to pursue their ideas. It can also serve as a blocker when trying to implement them.

Culture & Who We Are

Finally, we should consider how we perceive ourselves. Our cultures often drill things into us that try to define who we should be or become in this world. 

Although entrepreneurial pursuits serve customers, the activity of coming up with an idea and pursuing it is self-motivated. Not only must you believe that the problem is worth solving, but you must also dedicate hard work to finding a solution. 

Who we believe we are will inevitably impact what we believe about what we are here to do. In some places, saying you are an entrepreneur or trying to start a business is ridiculed. The beliefs in these environments are pessimistic and tend to be risk-averse. 

Although individuals in these environments may mean well, they harm the likelihood of good ideas going far.

Building a Positive Culture

As leaders, we are called to create cultures that better our world. And these cultures are pivotal to the impact we and those under our leadership have in the world. 

We often focus on defining company values and pitching spectacular aims for those around us to feel inspired. We celebrate our ambitions and create slogans around our purpose. But living our defined values is more important than having them on your company website. 

When we share our difficulties and shortcomings, we create a culture that practices many of the values large organisations claim they stand for today. These values include inclusivity, fail-fast and creativity. 

People are no longer attracted to the sales pitch company representatives give about how amazing it is to work for their company. Although they may be representing the culture in a positive light, our actions speak louder than our words. 

Do not just say you embrace failure. Tell your team about the countless times you failed. Do not just say you wish to challenge the status quo. Ask your team what they would change about the company and culture. 

Establishing a good culture starts with action. And ideas becoming companies starts with action too. So, show your people that you act as well as speak. It is the best way to build the environment ideas need to become a reality. And that culture is an active, not a stagnant one.


References:

Lewis, M., Takai-Kawakami, K., Kawakami, K. and Sullivan, M.W. (2009). Cultural differences in emotional responses to success and failure. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 34(1), pp.53–61. doi:10.1177/0165025409348559.

Morales, G.L.O., Aguilar, J.C.R. and Morales, K.Y.L. (2022). Culture as an obstacle for entrepreneurship. Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 11(1). doi:10.1186/s13731–022–00230–7.

Tavian Jean-Pierre I am a Visionary and Writer at Tavian’s Blog who seeks to change ideologies, encourage others to find their creative spark, and inspire people through the powerful tools of writing and self-reflection.

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