Thomas Edison was an outlier. For someone to invent so many products and succeed with so many, even accounting for his failures, just doesn't happen, before or after him.
Elon Musk, with several innovations, is still an outlier. It's rare that someone could come up with multiple ideas, let alone to succeed with even one of them.
Jeff Bezos, while more financially successful than most, is more typical in terms of innovation. Most of us would be lucky to come up with one idea to start a company with.
So many ventures fail, it's safer to wait for that one great idea and perfect it before going to market.
Are You Enraged By What I Wrote?
I hope what I wrote enraged you. Those four paragraphs expressed one of the most insidious, discouraging, bogus, yet subtle myths about innovation and acting on it.
The myth is that you're lucky to get one great idea worth committing to, and that absent that idea, you have to accept your fate to follow others achieve their dreams. The myth tells you to wait for magical inspiration, maybe to pity yourself in the meantime, since what can you do about it?
I'll counter the myth in a moment, with what will encourage you instead of discourage. So you match you role models' achievements, replacing complacency with inspiration.
Sadly, the words would enrage many for the wrong reasons. Believing it, they get enraged that they'll never have even one idea worth committing to. Or even to propose to their manager to start a project they could own.
Instead of rage, many feel sadness and complacency.
What should enrage them is the falsehood of the myth, and that so many accept it. If people that report to you, that you report to, or are in your teams believe it, they're crippling your teams without realizing it.
What's Wrong With the Myth?
The effects of the myth are caustic.
When you see great ideas as scarce, you don't act on okay ideas that could become great when developed, and no great idea began great. You hold on to the ideas out of neediness, crippling your ability to make sound business decisions for fear of losing your only hope.
More importantly, the myth doesn't match how successful innovation works.
The myth reinforces itself--that is, believing great ideas are scarce leads you to dismiss okay ideas, which makes great ideas scarce to you. Confirmation bias leads people to resist research countering it.
As a result, when I teach entrepreneurship, I find what overcomes the myth is not research, but giving a perspective that leads students to experience the opposite of the myth.
I use these nine words:
The Idea of a Lifetime Comes Once a Month
I hope the concept that The Idea of a Lifetime Comes Once a Month is obvious to you, but when I teach entrepreneurship, I sadly find most people find it bizarre or shocking. Believing the myth, often subconsciously, they struggle to comprehend it.
They often don't want to consider it, since the myth excuses their career choices, especially the adult learners, like palliative medicine.
Happily, only a modicum of experience replaces the myth with The Idea of a Lifetime Comes Once a Month. It's a bitter pill at first, but changes everything.
If the concept seems strange, try this. For a week, see what happens when you imagine that The Idea of a Lifetime Comes Once a Month.
See if ideas that seemed silly, with a little consideration, develop into workable ones. See if workable ideas develop into projects.
Likewise, see if great ideas that once intimidated you might have seemed silly before they started. To start a new car company in the United States to build electric vehicles?!?
See if you don't start seeing execution as the bottleneck, but one that takes regular skills, not a magical muse outside of your control. Maybe Bezos isn't working on one company for lack of ideas but because he likes his current idea, or that it takes this long to execute.
See if you don't see ideas develop into projects that engage you enough to propose to your manager or even start on your own.