This conversation is closed.

How do you know if an idea is worth pursuing?

This is a general question, but I will give a specific example.
Not to long ago, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and put an idea for an app, (a game based on doodling), out into the world. I put my idea on a brand new crowdfunding site specifically designed to help raise funds for the development of applications.
I got a good start, but as the time ran down I realized I was coming up short. Unfortunately, my idea was not chosen for development.
The fact that my app didn't make it could have been a combination of things, my network was not big enough, the crowdfunding platform was to new, I may have not leveraged social media effectively enough, or the idea was just simply not good enough.
So my question is, how do I know if I should try to pursue this idea? How does one know when it is a good idea to pursue any idea? Many fail several times before they succeed, but how do they know it is worth trying again?
I look forward to hearing the comunities thoughts on this.

  • thumb
    Apr 8 2013: I think that if you are passionate about an idea and that you feel that it could make a difference to a persons life, then it would be worth pursuing. If we look at things with a economically feesible outlook, then we would never really enjoy all the thing that we may like or be indulged in.

    With economics, what isnt feesible today might be feesible tomorrow, but if we loose hope in pursuing it today then we may not realise it when it could be. Many examples of such ideas exist such as the idea for aluminuim production, the idea of the difference machine(first mechanical computer in the world) by Charles Babbage who designed machines and never really get down to building them and the list goes on.

    If you would, i have written a blog post on this specific kind of idea, and it might help you understand where im coming from. Please read it and let me know what you think.
    http://thinkrandomness.blogspot.com/2012/03/infinite-thoughts.html


    Thank you
    Yusuf
  • thumb
    Apr 8 2013: Dear Amanda,

    I see two different stages of an idea development in your inquiry:

    1) How do you know if an idea is worth pursuing: This is the due diligence step of creating an action / business plan for the idea you have. As others have mentioned, research is the key. You have to investigate and find out whether your idea is palatable: Does it solve a problem? How many people does it affect? Is it proprietary? Is there anything else on the market like it? How much is it going to cost, and how will you pay for it? These are just some of the key questions you should know the answer to in your preparation phase, before you go head in.

    2) Your doodling app example: Here you are already working on something, various options have been exhausted, and you are now asking yourself whether it makes sense to continue doing it. In my view, you should go back to your plan and review it. Do you have a contingency plan? Have you drained all your options? Are there any other options?

    I see that you mentioned a few things you have already identified as potential negative effects (new website, weak social media positioning, etc.). This is your learning experience and exit strategy. Identify all of those, and recreate your plan based on solutions to the adverse factors. If it doesn't work after that, and there is no considerable progress, you might consider abandoning the idea and moving on.

    Good luck!
    • Apr 8 2013: Thank you for the advise Stefan.
      Family and friends gave me positive feedback, but again that is family and friends.
      Putting an idea out there is definitely a learning experience! Not getting discouraged when it doesn't work is a whole different learning experience I am going through right now.
      I think you have laid out some really good questions to ask when contemplating pursuing an idea. Do you think gut feeling has anything to do with it?
      • thumb
        Apr 9 2013: Sure, I hope my little analysis has helped you a bit :) Gut feeling is a good indicator in my opinion of how fired up you are about the idea; research, planning, and preparation is what you need to make it happen in reality.

        /S
  • thumb
    Apr 8 2013: An idea is worth pursuing when it is concieved by a patient and disciplined fellow, when it has been critically examined, and has been enriched by wise counsel (there are people who have shown by their results that they've earned the right to be heard).
    Now the purpose of seeking wise counsel is not to take every given advice as the hard and fast rule; but to help in having a broader perspective of things. Sometimes 'experts' are proven wrong by those who pursue their ideas with courage.

    Courage is needed in the pursuit of a dream; because even when you think you are sure, you can never be really sure.
    You gotta have faith in yourself, and in your dreams.
  • Apr 8 2013: Some great advice here & some I now use & others I will use myself in future.
    An idea forms i my head-I figure out how to keep the costs down- & make a sample.
    I take that idea & bounce it off other folks. If it does well in that area- wonderful.
    I make up several samples & hit the street. Folks place orders via the samples.
    No matter what-I keep those cost down but I do not squeak on quality. Never do that.
    I have yet to advertize. Word of mouth is enough.
    When you advertize, production goes up & at my age, I don't want to be chained to that wheel.
    But that is for me & not others. If your young-go for it.
  • thumb
    Apr 7 2013: Fritzie is pretty smart for a gubment worker.

    Yup the key is surveys. Make sure you survey people who play games otherwise your results will be skewed.

    Ask questions that evoke emotions people buy for emotional reasons. In your case I would guess because it is fun.
    If you ask enough questions you will get one answer that is dominant and that is the answer to what you want to provide.

    E.G. a survey of candy might have the dominant answer of I want something that is crunchy and chewy. So chances are that if you are going to be successful in the candy business your candy should be crunchy and chewy. By the way can you think of a candy that is not crunchy and chewy or at least one or the other?

    Budweiser used to be "for all you do this bud is for you", catering to an anachronistic class of people that worked hard. So if Budweiser was going to be successful it had to appeal to hard working blue collar types.

    There is a plumber in our area who advertises himself as the smell good plumber. Obviously he surveyed and found that his potential customers didn't like the smell of most plumbers.

    A home service company surveyed that the most important thing to homeowners were that contractors they used cleaned up after themselves. They determined that to a great extent this was how customer determined whether or not the contractor did a good job.

    Look at the competition in your market and see what the primary emotional reason is that people play the games they play.

    Do not survey groups as you will not get real answer

    I did a survey here on TED for the first couple of thousand posts that I had made I averaged a point for every 35 to 40 posts this was worse than the most obnoxious ignorant people on TED. I was surprised because they weren't nearly as smart as me or as humble. So I did a survey to determine what the people said that got a high point value per post. In other words what did they want? answer short and pithy. I now get a point for every 27 posts.
    • Apr 8 2013: Hi Pat!
      That is an interesting survey you conducted! If you were to ask me, pithy, yes, short? Well it would depend.
      Anyways, I did conduct some informal surveys, but because this whole thing was a new process for me I may not have put enough effort into the survey part.
      Do you think Budweiser came up with the add campaign by doing a taste test survey that reveiled their beer tasted better to working class people? Or do you think they decided who their target audience was first, and then built their campaign around them?
      With the specific example of the doodling app, I had a hard time deciding who the target audience was going to be. In my mind, the game could be used for a number of different things, like as a tool for art teachers, art therapists, parents, etc. I could have probably made it more appealing to kids as a children's game but I didn't want to limit the game as only for kids.
      So, do you have to be compleat lay clear on who your target audience is going to be before your idea can succeed ?
      Thanks again for your thoughts
      • thumb
        Apr 8 2013: Do NOT underestimate the importance of this. It literally is the difference between sucess and failure.

        The taste or the beer is irrelevant. it is about emotion. Look at Red Bull it tastes like sh!%, but it seems to be selling moderately well?

        A couple more examples:

        Friend decided to go into the clothing business started out selling jackets to mom and pops but could not get enough volume. They started selling to department stores problem was the margin was too low. They then decided to sell to team sports with warm up jackets and it took off and they have been doing it every since the mid 80's. The market has changed so it is not what it used to be but they are still in business.

        A software company started as a guy doing programming and after years of surveying while still working his company sales went into the 100's of millions by finding a niche in the market.

        You are asking about different niches. The obvious question is what companies cater to these different niches? If there are none most likely there is not demand.

        You are doing too much thinking and too much talking. Surveys are about LOOKING. So do a whole lot of looking and you will find the answer but only if you look.

        Anyway it is just work if you do the work you will find the answer nobody is going to hand it to you.
  • thumb
    Apr 7 2013: Your question is broad, as you say. Two ideas come to mind. One is whether you did any sort of survey about what sorts of doodling ideas are already out there and thriving and what yours offers that others might not to a niche of users who are under-served by existing applications. You probably know that doodling is pretty big right now, with several very successful doodling programs out there, in addition to the fact that you can doodle on lots of computer apps or with just a pencil and paper.

    Cranium and Yamodo are two games I know with a doodling component, and I am sure there are others. There is even a TED talk on doodling, though I cannot remember the speaker. Found it: http://www.ted.com/talks/sunni_brown.html

    In terms of your broader question of how long to pursue a creative idea, many bloggers write on this topic, including Seth Godin, a TED speaker who has a searchable blog. I believe his book The Dip is on this subject. Also, you may be interest in the free course Design of Artifacts in Society, a free Massive Open Online Course through Coursera. The teacher is Karl Ulrich, inventor and faculty member at Wharton.
    • Apr 8 2013: Hi Fritzie!
      Thanks for your feedback!
      I did do some research on doodling games and I did not find anything like the game I was trying to make. If you would like to check out the video I made for the campaign, here is a link to it.
      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cIvFvBjYBsg
      This was the first time I had ever put an idea out into the world like this, so I may not have explained the concept very well.
      I am very familiar with the Sunnie Brown Ted talk. In fact I posted that talk on the Facebook page that I made for The Doodle Project. I even contacted her to ask if she would mind looking at my idea and giving me any advise or feedback she could. Unfortunately, she was very busy and I was only able to speak with her PR person, which is understandable.
      I am also a big follower of Seth Godin. I am actually in the middle of listening to the Iccarus Deception, and I am enjoying it very much.
      I have never heard of the free courses through Coursera. I will be sure to check it out.
      Thank you for your thoughts and advise!
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2013: If you believe in your idea, you will work hard on it yourself and spend as much as needed. if you don't believe your idea truly, you'll try to find someone else to work for that.
  • thumb
    Apr 7 2013: Will you do anything with Fritzie's answer, it sounds good, tell the idea to your family and friends and see what they say. If they aren't thrilled with your idea, ask how you can make it better.
  • thumb
    Apr 7 2013: Give up when you've tried all the avenues you've thought of and a few more.
    • Apr 8 2013: How do you know that you have fully explored the avenues you have tried? What if just one little thing was off? Do you think it is wise to retry a path?
      • thumb
        Apr 8 2013: Judgement and experience.
        If you're looking for absolutes then you're going to be disappointed.