Sacrifice your Good Ideas

19 December 2019

“Good ideas" are just that. Good. Not great. Not the ones that hit with such impact that people’s jaw’s drop. Not the special ideas. The ones that are just good enough to warrant speaking life into them.

Don’t be afraid to sacrifice the good ideas. The good ideas, while sometimes clever and useful, aren’t what matter. The value they deliver when implemented is linear, not exponential. There is far more value in being willing to sacrifice these ideas than stubbornly refusing and forging ahead.

Sacrificing your good ideas, in the context of a team, is a vital way of building trust in the team. You still need to communicate the idea, but don’t let the act of communicating it cause you to become attached to it.

Communicating these ideas can act as a checksum for your mental model of the environment.

If its not an obviously special idea, but probably just a good idea, toss the idea out into Slack and see how the reactions and comments turn out. But if it might be special, I recommend a slightly more intensive socialization pattern, where you have a discussion with at least one other person who has a better defined mental model of the product or environment.

Do they understand why its a “good” idea? Are they less excited about this idea than you are?

Or does their jaw hit the floor?

If you can somewhat consistently generate ideas where people’s jaw hit the floor, this can serve as feedback that your mental model of the situation is well tuned. It is definitely not an everyday occurrence, maybe once a week or more likely once a month.

If all of your good ideas get implemented, it sends a terrible message to your team, this is why you try and not get attached to a good idea. Being willing to sacrifice a plain ol’ good idea when the priorities didn’t match up or a better good idea came up shows that you are reasonable. Including ideas from everyone is far more important that choosing the best good idea.

And when the time comes to go to bat for a special idea, they know you would back down if you thought it was merely a good idea. They’ll work harder to understand what they’re missing. Just make sure it’s not you who is missing something. Which, if you’ve been sacrificing your good ideas all along, you’ve probably done a pretty good job of tuning this intuition.