We all have those seemingly crazy hunches from time to time. What if there could be a body odor alarm near the office entrance, so that people could check their odor levels before they enter? We’d have a far more pleasant office environment if we did that. What if there could be an app that lets you decide the most appropriate outfit for any event based on what’s in your wardrobe? For most of these hunches, our response is usually the same – Shut up and get on with your day.
Before you toss out your idea because you think it’s too kooky, though, consider the snuggie – basically, a blanket with sleeves. As ridiculous as it may sound as a product idea, the company has sold about 30 million units and raked in over $500 million. Here’s another one: In 1975, a guy called Gary Dahl made a million dollars selling a product called the Pet Rock, which is exactly what it sounds like – a smooth stone sold in custom cardboard boxes, complete with straw and breathing holes.
In one of my articles titled ‘Don’t Ignore Your Hunch’ I describe the regret people feel when they ignore a hunch, only to find out later that someone else acted on the same hunch and benefitted immensely. In that article, I go into some detail suggesting what people can do, and what organizations can do, so that hunches have a shot at being surfaced. Without repeating that discussion, I focus on some common reasons people don’t surface hunches.
Think of some of your hunches and the reasons why you decided not to share them or act on them. Were you too embarrassed to tell people about it? Too busy? Felt like you had to work on it a little more before you share it? Realized that it probably wouldn’t work?
1. Too embarrassed to tell
Many of us don’t think of ourselves as ‘idea people’ and feel awkward and self-conscious when expressing our hunches. Will the other person think I’m crazy? What if they ridicule my idea? I don’t want to be left red-faced. That’s the general refrain.
The truth is that you can always express your hunch, as long as you make it clear to the other person that it’s just that – a hunch.
2. Too busy to tell
With demanding lives and hectic schedules, you’re unlikely to ever find time to pursue an idea. You need to make time for it. When you invest time in something that you’re excited about, I can assure you that you won’t regret it even if it doesn’t eventually materialize into anything. At the very least, you will find the experience enriching.
It’s also likely that your excuse of being busy is possibly just that – an excuse. Try to examine if there are any other reasons (such as those listed in this article) that are holding you back.
3. Need more time to think about it
This is typical of people who feel compelled to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. They cannot deliver a product, a document, or a thought unless it is perfect. Perfection takes time, so they need more time. Once they have developed that hunch they will be comfortable presenting a polished idea. Of course, that might never happen.
Although there is nothing wrong in wanting to think through your hunch, far too often, early communication is also beneficial. The other person may have additional perspectives that help develop your hunch. The more comfortable you are in sharing, the more inputs you will get, and the richer your own thought process will be.
4. Found Reasons why it won’t work
When we think of ideas in our head, we generally over-analyze them to death. We tend to go down a single track and find that we have reached a dead end. When you share the idea with someone, they can provide a crucial second track that you might not be able to see on your own. Discussing an idea with another person can amplify it not just twofold, but exponentially. So, go ahead and share your idea even if you aren’t quite sure how it can pan out.
5. Cannot trust people
We’ve all heard of those horror stories of how someone shared their brilliant idea with a friend who stole it and went on to build a business empire based on it. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it’s never that simple. An idea may serve as the genesis of an opportunity, but there are far too many factors at play to lend any credence to the fear of your idea being stolen. The many possible rewards of sharing your idea with your circle, will almost always outweigh any risk that they may plagiarize your idea.
Whatever your reason for holding on to your hunch, remember that unless you share your idea and act on it, there is a 100% chance that it just dies down. By surfacing your hunch, you are giving it a real shot at success.
What next? Your hunch will come to life as an opportunity only when you invest time and resources in exploring it, testing it out and understanding its role in a social context. This process of enacting your opportunity is the subject of my next blog in this series on the pursuit of opportunities. Stay tuned!