Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of considers the question of how long you should give a new idea to succeed before giving up?

Creativity and Risk

When you are trying something different, new and creative, you can't be sure how it will turn out.  You might reasonably hope that putting together ingredients with known actions will produce a particular result, in a similar way to a chef creating a new dish.

Methods of exploring the impact of a new idea or product exist, such as pilot schemes, test-marketing, etc. These can be valuable, but not always as simple as they seem.  Some time ago, McDonald's decided to start serving breakfast.  They already had the image, the restaurants and the staff, so decided to open up this new source of revenue.

They lost money on this project for four years because people just weren't used to eating breakfast away from their homes.  So at any time during those four years, the new venture could have been scrapped as a bad idea.  But McDonald's did not give up and breakfasts became the most profitable part of the business.

This raises the question of how long a pilot scheme should last.  That is impossible to say.  It can take a long period of time to change culture and habits.  So the test could be a long-term one.  But how long – three, four, five years?

Risks have to be foreseen and creative ideas designed to minimise them.  It's not good enough to just have a basic creative idea and then go ahead and use it.

There are many examples of excellent creative ideas that have failed due to insufficient attention to the design stage.  The creative idea is tried in its raw form, fails to work and is ditched. However, with some design effort, the idea could have been a success.

But don’t assume that creative ideas are always high risk, or there will be a tendency to avoid creativity altogether, resulting in an organisation or enterprise operating well below potential.

The more efficient an organisation, the greater the need is for creativity.  Efficiency will extract the maximum benefit from a new idea and if an organisation is inefficient, it will be inefficient with new ideas.  Efficiency and creativity help each other, not hinder.

If the creativity and efficiency are present in appropriate measures, the next big challenge is to know when to persist with an idea or when to get out. Unfortunately there are no simple formulas to help make that decision.

About the author
Edward de Bono is the world's leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the teaching of thinking as a skill.