Letting Go of Your Ideas

Over the past two months, in a position with freedom to make my own role and work, and working in a space with so much room for improvement and change, I’ve caught on to the entrepreneurial bug, though I try hard to resist it knowing that I’d prefer to be an intrapreneur.

What I’ve found though, is that its actually easy to come up with ideas for initiatives and ventures. And when I get too many in my head, it quickly becomes overwhelming because I want to do all of them. In fact, I think its easy to get excited about an idea, embrace a can do, start something attitude, and put the wheels in motion to try and make your idea a reality. This is especially true with the rise of incubators and accelerators and more resources for entrepreneurs and startups. (Of course, once the wheels are in motion, it’s the opposite of easy).

I think its much more difficult to step back and really consider whether your idea is actually right for the community, available resources, and sustainability, and that it doesn’t already exist. And if the idea already exists, because you thought of it too, it seems easy to justify why you can try and launch your own version instead of working with what is already there by adding your perspective or joining the team. Recently, another intrapreneurial friend and I were excited about starting a new project together, until we both realized that something similar just launched, and no matter how much we could try and differentiate our project from the existing one, it didn’t make sense given our belief in not starting something just for the sake of it if its not filling a true gap in the market. It wasn’t an easy decision to let it go, but instead, we are now working with the other venture.

I think it is important to be very intentional, informed, and collaborative before moving forward with an idea. What I find most important is that when I get an idea for something new, I try not to keep it to myself, even though that tends to be my natural, initial instinct. I share it with friends, colleagues, and people I network with, and immediately ask for their feedback and participation. They always add a great perspective, know of something similar that already exists, make me think of new ideas, put me in touch with the right people, or want to join me. Anything worth doing will only be successful and impactful with other minds involved. And just as I don’t see any use in recreating something that already exists or launching a venture that doesn’t have a unique purpose, I see no use in keeping your ideas secret. 

Nilofer Merchant recently wrote an excellent article about letting go and being open with your ideas for HBR, taking the concept of unleashing your ideas to a new level. 

Openness, she explains, is the uprisings of the Arab Spring, TEDx, Apple, and individual collaboration. She points out that Apple’s openness, by allowing developers to create apps for Apple products, fueled growth and a new market. She also talks about the difficulty in letting go of your ideas, but the real power in opening them up for feedback and collaboration. Companies and individuals should strive to understand and embrace her points about the catalytic power of openness.

Excerpts from her piece:

Letting Go of Your Ideas

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