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The Problem With Ideas and How to Solve It

As I sit at home suffering through my second day of the flu, I find my mind oscillating between Breaking Bad (watching for the first time!), Lakers trade rumors, and side project ideas.

Today, I counted ~37 unique ideas for side projects, companies, and products. Now, here is the problem with ideas, they are a dime a dozen (maybe even less). While ideation is crucial for innovation, having too many ideas, or overemphasizing ideas can lead to mental paralysis.

Ideation Paralysis

When you have too many ideas in your head, you might feel compelled to be 'action-oriented'. You will feel compelled to dive in and start making progress towards one of those ideas. Most likely, you will either pick an idea at random, or pick one which feels the most compelling in the moment.

Now as you start building, more ideas will keep popping in your head. Some of these will be entirely new ideas and others will be ideas on how to implement the idea you are currently working on/thinking about.

This leads to a situation I call Ideation Paralysis. As you start working on the project, you are flooded with ideas that not only distract you from the actual implementation but also make you quickly lose interest in the project at-hand in favor of some other idea which feels more compelling in the moment. At the end of the day, you end up with 37 ideas, 3 unfinished projects, and no real product to launch. By this point, all your ideas are jumbled and mental fatigue takes over.

The (R)ICE framework for relative idea prioritization

This is a framework I like to use to prioritize my ideas and get over ideation paralysis. In this framework, we evaluate every single idea using three criteria (and an optional fourth) by rating the idea out of 10.

R (Optional) - Reach
I - Impact
C - Confidence
E - Ease

Reach - How many people can your idea affect? How big is the market size?
Impact - How much is going to affect something? The impact could be on revenue, churn, costs, impressions, customer satisfaction etc. This needs to be measurable.
Confidence - How do you know that your idea will have the desired reach and impact outcomes? The more data you have to support your assertion, the higher the confidence.
Ease -  How easy is it to implement/launch your idea? You can measure this in terms of time/cost/manpower.

Since this is a relative framework, the numbers don't mean anything by themselves. Simply, a 6 is better than a 5 and worse than an 8.  The only important thing, is to be consistent is your scoring and being objective about the outcomes.


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