Cultivating ideas: helping your ideas take root

Ideas are like seeds. They must be planted, nurtured, and cared for. Throw in a little luck and the harvest will be sweet. If others have proposed this analogy, and I’m sure someone has, please bear with me…
Seth Godin’s great book, Survival Is Not Enough looks at companies, and the ideas that drive them, through the microscope of Darwin. Memes combine, mutate, and grow into complex mDNA structures within organizations.

Instead of evolution, what about farming? Cultivating ideas. Everyone’s familiar with farming – well everyone except those who think food magically comes from a can. Using some of Seth’s points, let’s apply a farming metaphor.

  • Plant lots of seeds. Like farming, it starts with the seeds. If you want a varied crop, plant a lot of different seeds. Ideas are the same. So unless you can foresee the future, start with a lot of ideas.
  • Space to grow. If you plant a lot of ideas, you need to give the space to grow. Competing for space requires extra energy and leads to poor yields. So when planting a lot of ideas, remember to give them space to grow.
  • Nurture carefully. This is a tough one. Too much water and the roots won’t be strong. Too little and you’ll produce a tumbleweed. It’s a balancing act and each crop is different. So strike a balance; water when dry, feed occasionally, and whatever you do, don’t over-water.
  • Pull the weeds. Before they get out of hand, pull the weeds and under performers. If you’ve nurtured an idea and it still looks like volunteer corn in your bean field, hoe it down. Pull it out. Whatever it takes get it out of there. You don’t want it competing with other ideas or worse yet – propagating.
  • Harvest when ripe. You’ve watched the idea grow into a winner. Its avoided flood, drought, and swarms of locusts. Rot can set in if it hangs on the vine too long. Pick it, ship it, profit!
  • Sow the next crop. The smell of success – or is that fresh cut hay? Time to relax, right? Congratulate yourself, bask in the glory. Wait a minute. What about next season? There’s work to be done, another crop to plant. Save your best seeds, fertilize, and sow the next crop – and don’t forget to pray for rain.

Harvesting ideas is probably as difficult as farming. Remember that all the results might not be golden, but you’ll learn from each and every one.

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