X, formerly known as Google X, is the place where the most powerful startup in the world does its R & D. Corporations usually get more conservative after they get some wins, but X lead Astro Teller told us at the most recent TED Conference that Google thrives on failure. To paraphrase his popular talk, his team tries to make an idea fail as much as possible.
"We spend most of our time breaking things and trying to prove we are wrong. Run at all the hardest parts of the problem first. Get excited and cheer, 'Hey, how are we going to kill our project today?' We have this interesting balance going: We allow our unchecked optimism to fuel our vision, but then we also harness the enthusiastic skepticism to breathe reality into those visions."
Here's the secret behind Google's success: It knows that most of its ideas are bad in either execution or concept. That applies to all of us. The earlier you understand and accept that, the more prosperous your business will be.
After I sold my company, I felt this amazing pressure to do a second act. We had the number one app! We were on the cover of the Wall Street Journal! I came up with lots of new ideas, but it took me weeks to realize that most of them were bad. The truth was that I was getting excited about mediocre ideas because I feared that no more ideas would come - a common feeling when you've tasted success. Thankfully, I got brave enough to scrap or shelve my concepts before I wasted any additional time.
Before you execute your idea, consider this food for thought:
Be comfortable with pursuing nothing: You can't force yourself to be brilliant, as brilliance isn't just based on the concept you have, but the timing in the environment and the resources you've got. Don't hang onto an idea just because you don't have another lined up. That space between ideas could inspire even better concepts.
Put yourself in the future: Can you see pursing this passion, say, a year from now? Before you go whole hog, consider doing a prototype or test run. It's good to get feedback from others, but the real test is to see how you feel about the idea once you start to make it a reality.
Keep the public out of it: For every Elon Musk perfectly executing his open-book vision, there are a dozen Kanye Wests flailing at their public declarations. It's often best to keep the public out of your creative process until you are feeling at least a little secure about your grand idea. What if you realize your idea sucks? Having a public commitment to it may force you to follow through on something you know isn't going to work out.