Have you ever had a big idea, set out to figure out how to do it, and then realized it seemed impossible and just killed the idea? 

I know I have. Still do it a dozen times a year.

Your team does this, too.

What happened was you and/or your team jumped into the mechanisms of implementation. Y’all started thinking about all the details of the idea before the idea could coalesce into a commitment.

You get derailed by details.

When working with clients I try to find out their why and their what before I let their entrepreneurial minds get carried away by details.

It seems smart to try to figure out how to accomplish something before we commit to completing it. However, there are a million details to consider and they quickly become overwhelming.

What if your big idea required $10 million to implement? 

The thinking could go like this:

  1. I don’t have $10 million.
  2. I don’t know anyone with $10 million.
  3. I have to pitch VCs.
      3(n). I need to learn how to pitch, make a pitch deck, etc.
  4. I don’t know any VCs.
  5. I don’t know anyone who knows any VCs.
      5(n). I need to start networking. And get a suit. and, and, and.
  6. I don’t live anywhere near Silicon Valley.
      6(n). Since I need to network I should be in SV/SF. 
  7. This is impossible.
  8. I need a new idea.

Instead of jumping to the details of how you’ll accomplish the idea, first figure out the why

Ideas are very fragile. 

They can be quickly destroyed by “what ifs.” You and your team need time to figure out the why. Implement a rule of “only why and how an idea can work may be shared for the next 48 hours (or more).” This makes all the brains involved work to find success, not to find faults.

Here’s a way to do this, ask:

Why this idea? 

Why do I want to do it? Why do I think I can do it? And any other positive/supporting whys you can think of. 

Get to know the idea really well.

Then go to the What of the idea. 

What are the core concepts of the idea? What does a successful version of the idea look like? What will the idea do? And any other whats you can think of.

Write all your positive/supporting Whys and Whats down.

After a couple of days, the idea should be able to survive the next step: questioning why won’t it work and what won’t work about it.

By this time you should be able to commit to or kill the idea. If you are a “maybe” on the big idea then just put it on the proverbial shelf (or literally if you wrote everything down) until you can commit to it.

Now we can think about how. But…

We must keep how constrained to just-in-time thinking. If you’re thinking about how to accomplish step 107 and you haven’t even started on step 1, you will get overwhelmed.

If the idea is really big — multi-year big, then don’t think beyond 12 months. Only the next 90 days. Accomplish as many of the steps that you can in those 3 months to get to a MVI — a minimum viable idea. 

Here’s the serendipitous thing… you’ll probably accomplish more in a few weeks than you planned. 

When you don’t encumber your idea with future steps, you’ll be carrying a lighter mental load and move a lot faster.

This works amazingly well for me — when I do it. 

I too can get carried away with an idea, dive into the details and then get overwhelmed by it and never accomplish it.

But when I focus on today’s work and not tomorrow’s, my ideas become reality.

Hopefully this mental framework will help you the next time a big idea (or even a little one) pops into your head.