When I was consulting at a startup a few years ago, we were brainstorming ideas for a new product that would help small businesses manage their finances more effectively. We had already spent hours discussing various features and functionalities, but we just couldn’t seem to come up with anything groundbreaking.
As we sat there, staring at our whiteboard covered in scribbles and arrows, one of my colleagues blurted out what he called a “dumb” idea. He suggested that we create a virtual assistant that would be able to answer all of a business owner’s financial questions in real-time.
At first, we all chuckled and dismissed the idea as impractical and unworkable. But then something unexpected happened. Another colleague started building on the idea, adding in features and capabilities that made it seem more viable.
Soon, we were all brainstorming ways to make this “dumb” idea work. We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the concept, refining it, and adding new features. By the end of the day, we had developed a rough prototype of the virtual assistant.
Over the next few weeks, we worked tirelessly to improve the product, addressing any issues that arose and fine-tuning the user experience. We were all energized by the prospect of creating something that had once seemed so foolish.
And you know what? That “dumb” idea ended up being a huge success. We launched the product a few months later and it quickly gained traction, attracting thousands of users and generating rave reviews. It turned out that there was a real need for a virtual assistant that could answer financial questions in real-time, and our “dumb” idea had filled that need.
Looking back on that experience, I realized that we could have easily dismissed that idea as silly and moved on. But instead, we chose to explore it and see where it might lead us. And in doing so, we created something truly innovative and valuable.
So if you ever find yourself facing what seems like a “dumb” idea, don’t be too quick to dismiss it. You never know where it might lead you or what value it might hold. Sometimes, the craziest ideas can end up being the most successful ones.
There are many real-world examples of companies that have turned “dumb” ideas into successful products or services. Here are a few examples:
- Post-it Notes: In 1968, a scientist at 3M named Spencer Silver was trying to create a super-strong adhesive, but instead, he accidentally created a weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive. He thought it was a failure, but another 3M employee named Art Fry saw potential in the adhesive and used it to create the now-famous Post-it Note.
- Airbnb: When Airbnb co-founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky first came up with the idea for their company, they thought it was a “dumb” idea. They decided to rent out air mattresses on their apartment floor to people attending a design conference in San Francisco to make some extra money. The idea took off, and Airbnb is now valued at over $100 billion.
- Uber: The idea for Uber came about when co-founder Travis Kalanick couldn’t find a taxi on a snowy night in Paris. He and his friend came up with the idea of an app that would allow people to hail a ride using their smartphones. At the time, many people thought it was a “dumb” idea, but now Uber is a household name and has transformed the transportation industry.
- Pet Rock: In the 1970s, an advertising executive named Gary Dahl came up with the idea of selling rocks as pets. The Pet Rock came in a cardboard box with air holes and a bed of straw. It was a huge hit and became a cultural phenomenon, selling millions of units.
These examples show that even the most seemingly “dumb” ideas can turn into big successes if they are explored and developed properly. It’s important to keep an open mind and not dismiss ideas too quickly, as they might hold the key to something truly innovative and valuable.