Blake Smith

create. code. learn.


exploring good ideas

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that great ideas can’t exist unless you start working on them. Event ideas that are really good probably get passed by too quickly because they don’t seem great in the beginning. It’s difficult to judge an idea accurately when you’re so far away from it, before you’ve put any work in and explored its possibilities.

Most great ideas only become so through exploration. Google’s starting idea was simple: Make a powerful search engine. At the time Google was starting out, the idea seemed silly. There were other players in the search space who thought they already completely solved the search problem. Search had been done, that idea had set sail: too late Google. Search was just a good idea until Google came along and made it great. Larry and Sergey had to make it a great idea by exploring the space, even when others told them that search was a waste of their time.

This is why good ideas are about execution, not sitting around thinking about stuff. When you encounter a new vision, it’s rare to get it at the stage where it’s a great vision. Known great ideas are the ones that have already been executed on, like indoor plumbing and in-home electricity. The world only knows great ideas as such because they already exist. If you’re looking for validation of your new project or business, no one is going to give it to you; it’s going to take some work.

Starting with an overindulged idea usually leads to disappointment. When you spend too long dreaming up a new business or a new piece of software, you wind up overextending your vision too early. I’ve done this far too many times. You begin with a simple and humble thought, and instead of getting to work, you try to mature it too quickly in your head. New features materialize in your mind before you’ve even written a single line of code. You spend too much time thinking about the idea instead of starting to explore the space and working on it. More often then not, this leads you down the completely wrong path. You’ve tried to mature your idea in the wrong way. It’s like trying to learn to juggle from a book. Sure, you can pick up some good techniques, but to understand juggling, you have to do it.

Great ideas only become great by starting as simple good ideas. I bet you are sitting on lots of good ideas right now. They probably seem stupid, or done before, or old to you. Take the time to explore one of them. Find a way to deliver a small working prototype of it. You’ll find that when you commit to doing even a small bit of work, it helps you to see the next step towards making your good idea a great one.

about the author

Blake Smith is a Principal Software Engineer at Sprout Social.