At the heart of all innovation is a single question: “I wonder what would happen if…”
I wasn’t there, but I’m willing to bet that the wheel was invented -- the first time anyway -- when someone said, “I wonder what would happen if I carved off those edges and made this thing round.”
But true innovation only happens when we're in the right frame of mind when we're doing the asking -- the one that pushes us to say, “If it helps enough people, if I can articulate and demonstrate the value, if I care about it deeply enough, and if I am willing to keep opening doors and blowing up brick walls until I see a clear path, then I will be able to do the work to figure out how to bring this thing to market." That's the Possibilities Mindset, and it's the stuff dreams are made of.
But sadly, there are a few other frames of mind that often doom your possibly brilliant ideas before they get off the ground. Steer clear of these 5 idea-murdering mindsets.
1. The Fear Mindset
A lot of entrepreneurs have their subconscious asking, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if…” There's a time for risk assessment. That time is not when you're innovating. Only when you can articulate the value of your idea, and when you want it enough to commit the energy to pursing that idea should you indulge in worst-case scenario thinking.
2. The Attachment Mindset
There are entrepreneurs who hear just one answer to the question and then stubbornly chase that single outcome, banging their heads against brick walls and their fists against locked doors while all around them, hundreds of other answers are clamoring for attention. They might succeed eventually, battered and bloodied (or they might surrender), but either way, they’ll have a story of how business is a battleground and you have to fight like a dragon for your dream.
3. The Excitement Mindset
The entrepreneur in this mindset has an idea that is so cool it defies description. It's so amazing, fantastic and unbelievable that it has to be pursued at all costs. For a while. Excitement isn’t enough to carry an idea from innovation to execution. That takes true passion, determination, strategic thinking and, most of all, articulation. If you can’t describe how your idea will change someone’s life -- if not the world -- then selling anyone else on the idea is going to be tough.
And if you only care about it because it’s cool, the energy you’re willing to invest will only last until you have your next too-cool-to-describe idea.
4. The Enlightened Skeptic Mindset
This entrepreneur has probably been beaten up and beaten down for being too excited or has had too many ideas stall out because they were fueled only by excitement.
So now their mindset says that ideas are a dime a dozen, but ideas that make money are one in several million, so it's the better part of wisdom to withhold any and all emotion until you see that this idea really could be The One that survives. There's no excitement, desire or passion. Therefore, there's no energy, commitment or determination available for exploration or implementation.
5. The How Mindset
This mindset insists that you know how you’re going to do it before you even articulate the value you’d bring to the world by seeing it through. This entrepreneur builds walls out of, “You don’t know how to do that,” and, “How are you ever going to get the money?” and “How do you think you’ll get in front of the people who might buy it?” Like risk management, "how" is part of the strategic phase -- not the innovation phase. Don’t fall prey to the "hows" before you’ve completely explored the "whys" and "whats."
Reinventing the wheel really does count as innovation -- if it’s a better wheel. And no one wants to see an idea for a better wheel killed because you were in the wrong mindset when you asked the right question.