Idea: The most embryonic form of a new product or service. It often consists of a high-level view of the envisioned solution needed to solve the problem identified by a person, team or firm.
In product development contexts, the word "idea" may refer to a "new product concept" and other information described in project documents.
A common belief in new product development (NPD) is "If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas." An alternative version is "The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of them." Often, these quotes are attributed to Linus Pauling."
To acquire many ideas, some organizations make significant investments in idea generation techniques and idea management systems. These may be associated with innovation management efforts.
Additional Context and Interpretation
When Pauling was asked how he developed ideas, a colleague recalled that Pauling said:
"If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away."
The colleague interpreted Pauling's intension:
"Having the ideas is the easy part... The difficult part is to know which ones to hang on to and which ones to throw away."
Crick's interpretation provides additional insight regarding "good ideas" for new product developers. Discernment can be a more important success factor than just generating many ideas.
High Quality Ideas
Instead of producing a greater quantity of ideas, Pauling produced ideas of greater quality.
By the time Pauling was asked "How do you get ideas?" he had become very proficient and had been recognized for his accomplishments. A Wikipedia article describes him as "an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century." His accomplishments and awards include:
- Obtained PhDs in physical chemistry and mathematical physics in 1925
- Summarized his work in his book "The Nature of the Chemical Bond," an influential chemistry book. Published in 1939
- Awarded Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954
- Awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1962
- Linus Torvalds, the developer of the Linux kernel, was named after Pauling in 1969
- Called one of the founders of molecular biology by Crick in 1996
Pauling mastered the fundamentals of his discipline, contributed to the advancement of his discipline, and interacted with other proficient colleagues to synthesize good ideas.
By interacting with proficient peers, Pauling maintained effective ways to discern good ideas from the ones that should be discarded.
Contrasting two approaches to value creation
The approach advocated by Pauling includes proficient individuals interacting with proficient colleagues to develop a few ideas and reject others.
Another approach solicits contributions from a more general population. This approach is likely to generate more low quality ideas. The potential value of each idea may be evaluated by a committee. The ideas may be evaluated using sophisticated analytics. A portfolio of ideas may be managed by another committee. This approach is consistent with many social media campaigns and bureaucratic efforts.
One of these approaches is much more satisfying than the other and is more likely to produce better results.