Is this the big idea?

Update: My views on this topic has changed since I first wrote this essay. I will write a full update in the near future but as with everything else in this site it’s a work in progress?

Today I was listening to Reid Hoffman’s podcast Masters of Scale and in this episode he was talking to Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx (an underwear company). At one point Sara mentioned how whenever she would come across a potential idea for a company she would ask herself “Is this my big idea?”

In her case she wanted to know if this is startup idea would be the one that would land her an interview with Oprah a few years laters (according to herself). Although appearing in Oprah’s show is not my end goal, I do think that there’s something very valuable about Sara’s prompt. By asking the question “is this my big idea?” we can understand whether the idea is something that 1) has the potential to become something very big at some point and 2) that we’re interested in working on for a prolonged period of time.

Furthermore, asking the question “Is this my big idea” implies that you’re actively seeking an idea and that you’re preparing yourself for being able to identify this idea whenever it presents itself. Sara and Reid talked a lot about intentionality when it comes to identifying and executing on ideas. They both argued that ideas don’t simply fall from the sky. Entrepreneurs need to be actively open to the possibility of trying new things and I agree.

Until very recently i assumed that I should just focus on improving my skills and that whenever I was ready I would be able to identify the right idea to work. However, as I think about it more and more I’ve realized that ideas just don’t come knocking in your door. The best way to execute on a great idea is to generate a lot of them and start getting better at distinguish good ideas from bad ones (this is harder than it seems because plausible ideas tend to sound like good ideas but are actually pretty mediocre).

The Takeaway

In terms of key takeaways what I got from this episode is that I should actively try to generate new ideas of projects that I want to work on in order to get good at vetting and validating this idea. I’ve now built an idea generation framework and soon I will start working on an idea validation framework to keep the process moving along. Let’s see how it goes…