The Consequences of a Bad Idea

It has often been said that a bad idea is like a virus. It lives. It grows. It sustains. It spreads.

When you execute a bad idea it can be like taking the lid off that potent alien virus vial; once it's out, there's little hope for those who come in contact with it.

Bad ideas can spread even faster than good ideas. Their ramifications to the people involved can spread even faster in the ultracompetitive corporate world, where the grapevine often makes the news services look like the pony express.

Does the saying, "Distance yourself from the stench," sound familiar? No longer is the problem the thing that smells; it's the stink left behind that is the problem.

As for all those philosophers who say, "There's no such thing as a bad idea," I invite them to see how long they can stick around without holding their noses when some of these whoppers hit the fan.

Elsewhere in this book I talk about the fact that a bad idea—even one that's as bad as bad can be — cannot hurt anyone, that is, until it is executed. Well, in this section we're talking about executing bad ideas, not just thinking of them.

A bad idea can derail the best-laid plans of any group. It can put a good company out of business. It can take away people's jobs, cause empires to fall, and cost a lot of people a ton of money.


The birth of an idea:

In the grand scheme of things, that magical flash of brilliance (?) doesn't take long. What? A second? Maybe two?

The time it takes to execute an idea:

Again, in the general scheme of things, it doesn't take a lot of time to execute an idea, good or bad.

At least not that long compared to the ongoing life of any kind of idea.

The ongoing life of a "bad" idea (can you possibly get your mind around the concept of eternity?):

This is a whole different story. There's the idea itself in whatever form. Then there's the baggage that goes along with the bad idea. The questions. The second-guessing. The echoes of ghosts past. With truly bad ideas the public can have a very long and vivid memory. And your boss's memory can be even longer and stronger.

Timeline of a lousy idea

Timeline of a lousy idea

Of course, a good idea, poorly executed, can also do a lot of damage. And a bad idea that's well executed can . . . no, I don't think so. Basically, if we can have both good ideas and good execution, why would we ever settle for bad ideas or bad execution?

The good thing about bad ideas is that they so often put themselves out of their own misery. Die, bad idea. Die.

so, no harm done, right?


Exhibit A: the Edsel.

Yes, the product died (and perhaps not soon enough). But the idea of the Edsel lives on. That's the whole point here.

Because even if the idea dies or you're smart enough to kill it yourself, the aftermath of "Whose idea was it, anyway?" can linger on indefinitely.

Similarly to the timeline of a great idea, a bad idea, while taking relatively little time to conceive and execute, can have ramifications for years and years and years.

Consider an "ouch" followed by an "ouch" and so on and so on to the nth degree.

Timeline of a lousy idea (continued)

Can you possibly comprehend ^^ the concept of eternity?


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