Are you in idea debt?
You know when you have a fantastic idea – for a project, or a blog post, or just a really well crafted tweet? Sometimes, you can spend so long thinking about the idea in question that it never actually happens, despite you having spent hours, even days, thinking about how you’re going to do it and how marvellous it’s going to be.
Illustrator Kazu Kabuishi calls this problem ‘idea debt’ (hat tip to Oliver Burkeman at The Guardian for mentioning this first), and the problem with it, as Oliver points out in his column, is that sometimes just thinking about the idea makes you feel like you’ve actually started working on it – when in fact it’s still just an abstract concept floating around your head. So you never really get started on the idea and nothing ever changes.
We think organisations can get into ‘idea debt’ as well – and with organisations it’s a serious problem. All those ideas that are discussed around the water cooler, or over a drink in the pub, or suggested at team meetings but never acted on – what happens to those ideas? Do they remain an abstract concept in someone’s head, or is there a way of capturing and developing them to see if they will change your world in some way?
We’ve talked before about absorptive capacity: the time and resources required for people in your organisation to create value from new knowledge and ideas. If you have no absorptive capacity, then you’re likely to be accumulating idea debt all over the place as people’s brilliant thoughts go to waste.
This is one of the ways Open Innovation can help: to put it very simply, by partnering organisations with ideas but few resources with other organisations with resources but no ideas, you can get out of idea debt and start building real value.