So that brilliant idea of yours isn’t the only version of it under the sun, but that’s okay (most new ideas aren’t) you’re pouring everything you have in to making it real because you believe it is the one and true answer to the problem at hand.

A this point, killing that good idea could very well be a good idea.

It’s easy to fall in love with an idea.  And when we’re not mindful of process, and spend our energy worrying about whether we’ll be successful and on budget and on time (not that those are bad things, they’re very important), we can also fall in love too early with an idea, simply out of fear.  The mental or organizational dialog goes something like this: “This one is good, and we’re in a rush, so let’s go do it.”.  Early closure is the enemy of innovation.  Better to move fast through lots of ideas early, throwing most of them out in the process, than to hone down to one in the very early days, polishing it to perfection in the vague hope that it is The One (Illustration by Daniel Haskett for SSIR).

Killing ideas also reserves energy so that there’s enough left over to actually bring the very best ones to market.  In work, as in life, you can’t do everything, so deciding what you won’t do becomes as important as deciding what you will do (while always maintaining a bias toward the doing).  In a discussion about why Apple never shipped a post-Newton PDA, Steve Jobs said “If we had gotten into it, we wouldn’t have had the resources to do the iPod.  We probably wouldn’t have seen it coming.”  At the end of the day, you never want to be low, slow, and out of money or time.

So go look at  your portfolio of ideas, and then kill a few that aren’t going to be remarkable in the way they go about making people happy and creating value in the world.  You’ll be much more innovative as a result.

Diego Rodriguez (@metacool) is a partner at IDEO, a founding professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (the d.school), and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School. This is the ninth of Diego’s 20 innovation principles:

  1. Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world
  2. See and hear with the mind of a child
  3. Always ask: “How do we want people to feel after they experience this?”
  4. Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.
  5. Anything can be prototyped. You can prototype with anything.
  6. Live life at the intersection
  7. Develop a taste for the many flavors of innovation
  8. Most new ideas aren’t
  9. Killing good ideas is a good idea
  10. Baby steps often lead to big leaps
  11. Everyone needs time to innovate
  12. Instead of managing, try cultivating
  13. Do everything right, and you’ll still fail
  14. Failure sucks, but instructs
  15. Celebrate errors of commission. Stamp out errors of omission.
  16. Grok the gestalt of teams
  17. It’s not the years, it’s the mileage
  18. Learn to orbit the hairball
  19. Have a point of view
  20. Be remarkable
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