Many idea people struggle a lot in life. They have the capability to come up with immensely innovative ideas, but unfortunately that often is the only thing they really do. Findings unique solutions to problems is their passion, and so whenever they are faced with a new challenge, they are likely to jump on it. As a result, they often start a large number of projects, but they quickly become bored with the execution. Therefore, the project lands in the trash-bin.
I remember vividly the first “start-up” that I was trying to build. I still believe that the idea behind it was quite good. It was to build an online platform for authors, where everybody could publish short pieces of content and exchange ideas about this content with other people. Other people were then able to rate the quality of the content, and in return they were awarded points for giving feedback to other authors. As a result, authors on the platform would end up with a certain rating displaying their level of involvement in the community. Then, there was an integrated online-bookshop in which authors could sell their books whether digital or physical. In other words, it was a bookshop in which unknown authors could sell their books by building relationships with the community as a whole.
At the time I was building this platform, I was an inexperienced 19-year-old. Surprisingly I actually managed to build the whole platform on my own, learning the world of coding as I went. After three months of working 14 hours a day on the project, however, I became bored with it and jumped on whatever captured my attention next (I don’t remember what that was).
People who we describe as “idea people” most closely fit into the category of the ENTP in the Myers-Briggs Personality test. They are very quick to learn anything that captures their interest, making them very flexible. They thrive on absorbing as many ideas as possible and to be constantly exposed to hard challenges to be solved. Routine ways of doing things bore them, making it hard for them to do jobs that are very repetitive. Planning tends to be an uncomfortable chore for them as well, because when an idea makes them excited, they want to jump on it as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately for people like you and me, what the world really needs is not ideas, but the right execution of an idea. There is an abundance of ideas out there in the world, but there is only a limited number of people who are excellent at execution.
Nonetheless, I believe that there is a place in the world for idea people. Radical innovation requires radical ideas, and we are the people most suitable to coming up with these ideas. Let’s now look at some strategies we can employ in order to thrive as an idea person.
Be aware of the limitations of your personality
I have already mentioned many of the limitations that define our personality type. However, I would recommend you to do some more reading on it as there is an incredible amount of information about the ENTP personality type on the web and in book format. Not only do we need to make ourselves consciously aware of these limitations, but we also need to ensure that we observe ourselves closely in terms of whether with what we do we are falling into the traps or not. So for instance, when you discard one of your projects, always ask yourself first whether it is because the project really isn’t viable, or whether it is because of your laziness to execute.
Make sure you are in the right environment
As I mentioned earlier, being in an environment where we can not fulfill our desire to solve difficult problems by generating innovative ideas will inevitable frustrate us. So for instance, if we are in a job where our employer expects us to follow very narrowly-defined rules, then this will certainly put us off. Therefore, what we need to ensure is that our workspace is an environment where unconventional ways of doing things are encouraged, and where there is a certain degree of openness in terms of embracing radically new ideas. For instance, working in an advertising agency where a large chunk of the work depends on the generation of new and innovative campaigns could be an example for a position in which people like us could thrive.
Surround yourself with people that complement your personality
Naturally, idea people are thought of as the idea people for working in the start-up environment. They are the one’s who are expected to generate that next, big idea. However, if we are not able to execute on these ideas, then all is for nothing.
As a result it is of crucial importance that we surround ourselves with people that complement our capacity to generate ideas. For instance, we have a strong need for somebody who has a strength in formulating a clear and specific plan and then executing on that plan. We also have a need for somebody who is going to bring us back to the real world when we are in our visionary state, and who can help us to transform our raw ideas into real, applicable one’s.
Find the right size for your projects
Different jobs may work in completely different time-frames. For instance, a copywriter might write a single piece of copy and then be done with it. Building a start-up, however, may require years and years of time. Since the tendency of idea people is to dislike spending long periods of time on the execution, they need to be particularly aware of what the ideal time-frame is they operate in.
For me personally, I found out that writing is actually an excellent choice as an activity in which I can thrive. I found out that writing short books of around 100 to 150 pages suits me perfectly, as it takes about three months or so of writing, and then an additional two months of editing. That is exactly the time-frame in which I can operate without getting so impatient that I immediately want to discard the project. If, however, I wanted to write a biography of 400 or 500 pages or so requiring years and years of research, then I believe that sooner or later I will certainly have to fight my inner demons that tell me to move on to something new and better.
Limit yourself to generating ideas within the constraints of your current project
Sure, you can not altogether avoid coming up with new ideas. However, try to focus your conscious attention on generating ideas that relate to the project you are currently working on. For me personally I have noticed that if I do not control myself, I will come up with lots of ideas for different books, while I should actually focus on coming up with ideas that relate to the content for the book I am currently working on.
Make sure that you are constantly aware of your thoughts, and that you catch yourself when you are drifting off to coming up with unrelated ideas. Of course, sometimes letting your mind wander in order to generate new and unrelated ideas is important, too. But always make sure that you are doing so when the time is right for it (e.g. when you just finished one project and now it’s time to come up with an idea for another project).
Lastly, I would like to encourage you once again to think about the limitations of your personality, and to think about how you can change the environment you are in with the goal of making it more suitable for you. Also, I would love to hear your own thoughts for how to succeed as an idea person. Please do let me know in the comments below.