Life is short: pick good ideas!

Some of us work hard to generate new ideas. All of us train on how to implement ideas. But our days look like this:

  • I have 100 ideas.
  • I write down 50 of them. The rest are forgotten.
  • I think seriously 10 ideas.
  • I test informally 5 ideas.
  • I share 3 ideas.
  • I fully implement and test 1 idea.

We tend to focus on both the first and last step of this chain. We think that the key to greatness is either in the volume of ideas or in the execution of the ideas… but I think there is a lot more room for optimization in the intermediate steps.

If you want to innovate, you are effectively walking in the unknown. Whether you make it big or not depends mostly on where you choose to walk, not on how well you walk or on how well you can see ahead.

How can you get better at picking ideas?

  • Make it cheaper to test many ideas quickly.
  • Remain socially connected.

I think that you need at least a little bit of these two ingredients to do well.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

3 thoughts on “Life is short: pick good ideas!”

  1. @Fifin

    While Pauling did some great work, he did get stuck in the end on a bad idea (vitamin C as an all-powerful cure). He wasted too much of his life in a dead-end.

    Of course, he achieved more in a small fraction of his life than I ever will in my entire life… but he could have done much more.

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