July 10, 2010

“Ideas” are almost worthless.

Most of the jobseekers who write to us note with great enthusiasm that they are uniquely employable because they have “ideas.” Lots of them. We are seldom (okay, never) moved to action by this claim, partially because so many people claim it. One becomes skeptical.

Which brings us to Brainstorming, that good ol’ reliable exercise adored by many, misused by more. We are not going to claim that this engaging diversion is totally worthless, because a few good ideas have been known to emerge from this ideation process.

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But Brainstorming is a clear demonstration of the tiny value of “ideas.” Gather in one room a team of eager people (one from Sales, one from Operations, one from anything-but-Legal, a few from the highways and byways) and equip a moderator with plenty of markers, easel pages and wall space to hang them on. You know the drill.

In a few short hours, an energetic group can throw up (ahem) 200 or more scribbles, be glad they avoided writing TPS reports for a whole afternoon, and be ready for the pizza. Supply and demand tell us that goods that can be produced in quantity quickly have little market value.

So what is valuable here? The ideas? Nah. Gather another group, repeat the exercise, and you’ll get 200 more scribbles. Two or three a minute, with many many repeaters. Dross. Dreck. Detritus.

What is genuinely valuable here – potential gold – is the rare, skilled, strategic editor with the vision to flush 199 “ideas” down the toilet, and find the one worth pursuing.

A person with the talent to recognize, select, shape, nurture and implement a concept is worth ten thousand “hey-what-if” brain farts. As we often say, we don’t kill ideas – we execute them.

Of course, one might have the keys to a working Concept Dispenser….