I’ve been working with our speakers for months now, to make sure they shine as brightly as they possibly can on our stage, and there’s something I’ve noticed: the first idea is generally not the best. Often it’s not fully formed and needs evolving. That's to be expected. But often in the process of evolution, the idea changes altogether, taking an unexpected turn and morphing into something wholly unrecognizable from the starting point.
There are a variety of reasons why this might happen. An idea put out there has to respond to feedback from the real world, and that feedback often forces the idea into a different shape. A voiced idea reveals its own flaws, or serves as the seed for something else. Or an idea joins with other ideas, has sex, and spawns a whole new line of thinking.
This is why I never assume the first idea is final. With our speakers, we challenge their complacency and ask them continuously if this is the biggest message they want to share with the world, and they’re often surprised to find they have more in them: a grander vision, a deeper insight. They start with the biggest idea they have -- and then it gets bigger.
The process of converting an already good idea into a bigger one -- a better one -- is not, of course, applicable only to TEDxChristchurch or some other public speaking forum. It is applicable to everything in life, but particularly to the startup environment.
I don’t recommend willy-nilly pivoting, but it is essential not to be in love with your own first idea. It is essential to be able to look critically at it, to let it learn and evolve from its interactions with the real world, to see what could be adjusted and what could be dropped altogether, for the next version to be even better.
Steve Jobs, of course, did this constantly, in an often obnoxious but wildly successful manner. His continual message seemed to be, “That’s just not good enough,” or, “Is that the best you can do?” -- which is essentially the same as saying, “Think bigger.”
It takes discipline and courage to continue to reassess, to challenge yourself further even when you thought you were already at your furthest. But the truth is, not one of us truly knows what our furthest is, and we humans are continually amazed at our own ability to advance just that little bit more.
Next time you have a big idea, get excited. But then go back and ask yourself, “Is this the best I can do?” You just may surprise yourself.