The power of incomplete ideas

Hugh MacLeod

Hugh MacLeod

This post is going to be a bit different. I don’t have a complete thought on this topic but I know it’s a good one to explore. I need help in finishing it, so won’t you give me an opinion?

I recently came across an excerpt of a book written by Matthew E. May that introduced me to the power of incomplete ideas.

Two things from that stuck with me from his excerpt.

In the Zen view, emptiness is a symbol of inexhaustible spirit. Silent pauses in music and theater, blank spaces in paintings, and even the restrained motion of the sublimely seductive Geisha in refined tea ceremonies all take on a special significance because it is in states of temporary inactivity or quietude that Zen artists see the very essence of creative energy. Because Zen Buddhists view the human spirit as by nature indefinable, the power of suggestion is exalted as the mark of a truly authentic creation.

Conventional wisdom says that to be successful, an idea must be concrete, complete, and certain. But what if that’s wrong? What if the most elegant, most imaginative, most engaging ideas are none of those things?

I am in search of companies or individuals who embrace and see value in incomplete ideas. Do you know of any? How do you handle incomplete ideas?

I’ve said before that ideas are cheap, and now more than ever action over talk is needed. At that same time, there are ways to act more wisely. Having a process for handling smart but incomplete ideas is one way to do that.

As someone who embraces disruption, here’s what I’ve been reading that furthers my value in those incomplete ideas:

  • Research has shown that innovative ideas tend to emerge more readily in communities in which people work in small and relatively isolated groups where early stage, incomplete and vulnerable ideas are given space and time to mature. – Neil Perkin
  • Great ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That’s why great ideas are initially resisted. –  Hugh MacLeod
  • A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit—to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort—that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company, or most important of all, a life.  – Bestselling business author and self-employed professor Jim Collins
  • How do people come up with truly original, effective ideas? A key part of the process is actually leaving out a detail or two. Regardless of what you are trying to create, allowing it to have a blank space or two will give your brain the freedom to think more creatively. – CornerWorld
  • In the networked society, companies premised upon the legacy, linear, mass-media models of: business, organisation, and marketing must think the unthinkable – in fact they must embrace the unthinkable. And work out how they innovate to survive. – Alan Moore
  • “Less is the new more” Easy to learn: symmetry, seduction, subtraction, and sustainability. Very valuable to do.  – Guy Kawasaki

Here are a few random and incomplete ideas I have. Anyone want to help me with them?

  • Can a core group of passionate people come together to revitalize downtown Cedar Rapids as an entertainment and lifestyle hub?
  • What’s the future of the NewsInnovation movement?
  • How do you turn the physical newspaper into a medium that adds value through explanatory, forward-thinking journalism while losing the stigma that comes with being a newspaper?
  • What’s the best way to teach, inform and show journalists and community catalysts the value in creating kick-as, must-read local blogs?

5 thoughts on “The power of incomplete ideas

  1. so Jason,

    How can we help you?

    Why don’t you post a brief for regeneration and send it to Guy, Hug, sorry I meant Hugh, Cornerworld, Neil and me. I’d be up for a bit of harnessing collective intelligence, crowdsourcing, co-creation, engagement marketing!

    However know another outfit, if the Grand Fromage are too Grand to stoop – that might be great for you!

    All good things – no promises

    Alan Moore
    SMLXL

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