Growing Your Business: When Are Dumb Ideas Really Smart?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On May 11, 2018

Business Coaching for business growthAs a business coach and business strategist, I’m often called on to help business leaders turn their dreams and ideas into reality. Of course, that means taking a hard look at a company’s goals and their plans (business strategy) for achieving those goals. There are times when I’ve looked at a company’s idea and it seems really smart. When I dig down a little bit, I discover it’s not so smart after all. Conversely, there have been ideas that seemed ill-advised or foolish—but they turned out to be wise choices. When are dumb ideas really smart?

A recent USA Today business ventures article cited the SpaceX and Tesla CEO calling his investing in rockets and mass-market electric vehicles, “the dumbest things to do” when addressing a crowd at SXSW Interactive recently in Austin.

“If you were to do a risk-adjusted rate of return estimate on various industry opportunities,” Musk claimed, “I would put building rockets and cars pretty much at the bottom of the list.” And yet, he told the crowd that what he looks for in business opportunities are “things that don’t seem to be working that are important for our life and for the future to be good.”

Chances are that you’ve heard of what some business leaders refer to as a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).” It’s a goal that really challenges their imagination, their capabilities, and their efforts. These goals don’t simply fulfill themselves. They demand a lot of hard work, deep thought, and sometimes even a bit of luck.

Some observers may look at them and call them pipe dreams. Others may be less charitable and simply label them as bad ideas. They may look that way on the surface. But it’s the companies (and that generally means the leaders) that pursue these goals that end up really disrupting industries. Not everyone thought that Edison, Jobs, Bezos, and others of their ilk were on the right track.

Elon Musk isn’t out of the woods, yet when it comes to achieving his BHAGs for Tesla or SpaceX. Maybe they were both really dumb ideas—or maybe they were really smart ideas because nobody else had the audacity to try them. I wouldn’t bet against him. And even if his ideas don’t turn out exactly as planned, there’s no question that he has already radically disrupted two major industries.

Of course, simply having a big idea doesn’t guarantee success. Is your company in a position to experience the kind of growth that can come with a big, hairy, audacious goal? Take this 5-minute assessment (click the button below) to see if your company is ready to rocket to new heights!