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Send Ideas to the Graveyard

Most ideas are like bad relationships: you know you have to move on but the idea of letting go seems too unbearable to handle.

If idea generation is an addiction then killing ideas is the cure.  After spending countless hours developing and polishing ideas, we tend to become attached to those same ideas (whether they are good or bad).  The result can be a great deal of wasted energy and effort.  It’s time to sever ties with (some of) our ideas and send them to the graveyard!

Most ideas are like bad relationships: you know you have to move on but the idea of letting go seems too unbearable to handle.  Our team has heard all the excuses that range from “It’s just a matter of time before this idea succeeds” to “This idea is just too perfect to give up.” But, in reality, the same rule that holds true for relationships should apply for ideas: if it’s going nowhere, it is sometimes best to move on.Many creative professionals feel pressured to move the ball forward on all of their projects. But sometimes we are blinded by our passion for the ideas we have conceived ourselves (conception, to no surprise, is a very emotional process). We spend so much time pushing all of our ideas to fruition that we’ve lost a sense of perspective.  The same passion that drives a creative to succeed can also interfere with judgment.  Sometimes, the best idea is to kill an idea that is consuming a lot of your energy.

Much like pruning branches from a tree helps strengthen the remaining branches to survive a brutal winter, killing ancillary ideas will help nourish the ideas that are most critical.

As you begin sending some of your ideas to the graveyard, consider the following tips to make the transition easier:

  • Creative destruction.

    Create a weekly or monthly ritual to critically examine your pipeline.  Prioritize your ideas and kill the ones that haven’t been actionable in the past year, are low on the priority scale, or will never go anywhere.

  • Donate your ideas.

    Share them on sites like ecopop.  Give them away for free.  License them to your competitor (sounds frightening, but you might as well benefit and develop relationships in the process).  If you have no intention of using your ideas, allow others to make them happen for the greater good.

  • Generate Ideas in Moderation

    Our judgment is impaired when we get intoxicated.  When rampant, new ideas will get you off track.  So, drink in moderation and strive to make ideas happen, rather than generate more ideas.

  • Focus on Results, Not Time.

    Achievement should be measured by output, not by the amount of time spent on a project.

Much like a New Orleans funeral parade, celebrate the ideas that you have buried.  If you suffer from separation anxiety, feel free to keep a backburner of ideas to which you intend to return.  But be honest with yourself, and if nothing worthwhile is ever going to occur, say goodbye and don’t look back.  Send that idea to the graveyard!

This tip was co-written by Michael Karnjanaprakorn and Scott Belsky, members of the Behance team.  Explore more tips, and check out Behance’s guest postings for small businesses trying to make ideas happen, hosted at American Express’ OpenForum.
Comments (2)
  • Tracey

    I also think that some ideas also need to wait for the right time. Maybe it needs to be put away until you’ve developed in some way that means you’re able to do it justice. Trying to push something out before its ready can damage its potential.

  • Thea

    I completely agree…there’s something about “clearing out the cobwebs” from your brain that helps to make you more focused and productive, and unactionable ideas are some of the worst cobwebs. However, like any pack rat, I’m reluctant to “kill” my ideas…so I would rather give them away to a good home. On my tumblr blog, I do exactly that – give the ones I’ll never pursue away for free to anyone who wants to use them. It has been an exercise in letting go, and incredibly refreshing at the same time. 🙂

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