What is a good idea?

March 11, 2011

My wife and I watched The Social Network recently, and since then I have not been able to shake the question: “What is a good idea?” Much of the film is spent trying to identify who had the idea to create what we all know as Facebook. While I imagine that debate will go on indefinitely, I think we can all agree that it was a good idea.

But, why?

We work in a field that requires good ideas for success. Many campaign and client birthings begin with the communications industry’s equivalent of “Get a towel and boil some water!” That is, “Reserve the conference room so we can have a brainstorm and think outside the box.” Once we get into that box and try to think outside of it, the ideas we hope will take flight are often hit with a few rounds of birdshot in the forms of budget, time frame, client comfort zones and other limitations that can shoot our ideas down.

So, how do we make our caged ideas sing? What was it about Mr. Zuckerberg’s (or the brothers Winklevoss’) mental nugget that made it gold when he introduced it to Harvard’s elite?

  • First off, it was possible. The creation of Facebook required programmers with time on their hands, knowledge in their brains and a captive audience of tech-friendly, socially conscious, elitist individuals.
  • Second, it was actionable. See above re: programmers, time and hands.
  • Third, it was fundable. See above re: Harvard.
  • Fourth, it was accessible. Harvard in 2003 was similar to just about any other college campus at the time in that it was full of students spending hours every day on one thing … computers. Internet access was a given.
  • Fifth, it served a purpose. By the time Facebook came online, e-mail, chat rooms, Friendster and MySpace had transformed the Internet into a social resource. The only problem – and here comes the elitism – was those first two W’s in “www.” Facebook allowed individuals to leverage everything that is convenient about the Web as a social scene while filtering out every single person on the planet aside from exactly who they wanted to interact with.

So, next time you have an idea, instead of asking yourself whether it is good, ask yourself:

  • Is it possible?
  • Is it actionable?
  • Is it fundable?
  • Is it accessible?
  • Does it serve a purpose?

Or, next time you lead a brainstorm, start it off by explaining the parameters above and how they apply to the task at hand.

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