The Power of a Second Opinion

Creative Commons License photo credit: ryancr

It’s easy to think of ideas in terms of ownership. “I thought of it first so it’s my idea.” We cling to these ideas because we feel that if we share them, there’s a chance someone will steal them. Or worse… they might hate the idea. So we keep them to ourselves.

Did you know that the term for a “Creative Type” in Swahili translates to “Greedy Idea Monkey”?

Ok, totally made that up. But it should mean that.

As creative people, we tend to get lost in our ideas. We can become consumed by them, thinking that our ideas are the best thing since sliced bread. The next thing we know, we’re so attached to our ideas that any criticism we hear concerning them we take personally.

Yet criticism can sometimes be our best friend, allowing us to gauge what needs to happen before our idea can become really successful. Criticisms help us shape the idea. Yet creative people tend to take criticisms very personally. When it comes to criticizing our ideas… you best watch your mouth.

When Ideas Suck

I know, it hurts to think about it, but our ideas can sometimes just plain suck. It sometimes takes the gentle help of a good friend to point out why the idea was bad in the first place. And you will have bad ideas. Almost every successful idea is accompanied by around 10 crappy ones. It’s just the way it works. The trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff. We don’t always know if our ideas are going to be great, but a good measuring stick is always a second opinion.

All-Star Second Opinions

I’ve found that if I run the idea by a trusted friend, it’s usually a good indicator of how well the idea is going to be. As soon as an idea strikes, I share it with at least one savvy friend. Not only does their opinion count as to whether it’s a “good” idea, but if the person is knowledgeable, he/she can help you refine the idea. I’ll usually share my idea with up to 3 close friends, and bounce the idea off of them.

The art of refining ideas is something special, and sharing it with a friend is even better. Soon your friend will become almost as invested in your idea as you are. They’ll share in your excitement, and will continually help refine it as well.

The more people helping you refine your idea, the better. The more minds processing a concept, the better chance it has to become successful. The excitement about a concept is contagious thing.

Keeping an idea to yourself may be helpful in the very early stages, but once you can clearly define your idea, it’s almost always best to share it.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Freddy May 2, 2008, 9:12 pm

    Got to say that you miss out one piece:

    The enthusiasm that is behind the idea is what makes it personal. If you mistake the idea itself for the embodiment of your own enthusiasm, you start clinging to it. Bad cricism comes from people who are not asking for the roots of the enthusiasm, yet falsify the idea where they can. If the enthusiasm, as in something separate from the idea, some sort of taste, curiosity, or simply good feeling about a certain small thing within the idea does not get any attention during the criticism, it is hard to discount it at times, because the enthusiasm is feared to be discounted together with it.

    Now, my point is: if you would let any idea die just because someone else says it does not make sense, then you would not be truly creative. Similarly, the excitement of someone else does not necessarily mean you should go forward with it. You have to take a step back and think about why you are excited about it. This is what shapes anything and gets anything going. If you are concious of that deeper motivation, you are ready to mold the idea while taking care of not loosing yourself and your excitement in the process of accounting for marketability and viability.

    Very confusing, probably. Does that make any sense to you?



  • Andre Kibbe April 30, 2008, 5:36 pm

    Isn’t that the great thing about having a blog? You get to think out loud and share your ideas with all of your readers (or both readers, in my case!) You might even discover that an idea has merit by the number of responses, even if the responses are negative.

    I second the Lisa opinion about the guinea pigs ;)

  • Lisa April 30, 2008, 12:49 pm

    Good advice, Glen! It’s true that what we think is terrific might really not be that great to the rest of the world. Been there.

    …and I love the photo! I used to have guinea pigs and they really are adorable.