Why a Great Idea Fails

And why you can't expect it to succeed on its own

I love hearing about a great idea, but it kills me when it goes nowhere. What happened? What caused it to fail when it looked so promising?


In Free Prize Inside, Seth Godin urges us to make soft innovations — small changes which are powerful enough to create fiercely loyal customers and return big profits. Soft innovations will continue to shake up industries in an age where huge marketing campaigns and disruptive technological breakthroughs are no longer guaranteed to break even financially. The little things will determine who is most successful.

But even a great idea for a soft innovation cannot survive on its own. Though there are many reasons it might fail, one stands out.

Silent Sabotage

Recently, I’ve been thinking about leaders who are strong and confident and intelligent and well-spoken and hard to argue with. They make decisions quickly and boldly, always moving forward.


But these leaders can be emotionally deflating if they bulldoze right over other people and their opinions when making decisions.

This exposes an important truth.

Demystifying Tough Concepts and Asking Simple Questions

Don’t you just love someone who can explain a tough concept so it makes complete sense? This is demystifying — breaking down a concept into its most basic parts and explaining its purpose in simple terms.

People who demystify are priceless.


Demystification does NOT mean dumbing down concepts. It is pulling a student along instead of pushing them in the right direction. It is inciting a taste for something interesting by uncovering its mysteries.

It is explaining something difficult in a clear and simple way.

Right now I am a full-time software engineering. I probably shouldn’t need to ask questions about simple computer programming concepts, right?

Wrong. I am constantly asking my demystifying friends about programming. I play dumb and ask simple questions about why certain “best practices” exist. I ask lots of questions about fundamental concepts I should probably understand already.

I want to know why, and these people pull back the curtain on the thinking behind the principle so I can understand the big picture.

It’s so meta!

And guess what — I’m learning way more now from demystifying people than I ever did in my programming classes.

All of you who love teaching others without being condescending are undervalued. You tirelessly answer even the simplest of questions. You wait patiently for that light bulb to flash on as you ignite interest in others.

Don’t be too proud to ask a simple question. And don’t be too proud to answer simply.

Demystifying people are incredibly refreshing. Be one!

Plus, they’ll never say, “It’s easy, you just“…

How does it feel when someone is condescending to you? Does it inspire you to grow?

We are All Projectionists

As a teenager, I badly wanted to be a movie projectionist at the local theater. The thought of learning all about the projection equipment was very appealing. And just imagine being responsible for showing movies for the entertainment of hundreds of people each night!


The job never panned out.

Yet I did become a projectionist. Actually, we are all projectionists.

We are all responsible for showing movies for the sake of those around us. Individual, unique movies we direct and star in ourselves.

We get to decide if the projected movie is a chick flick, comedy, drama, or an action or a horror film. And this is what we show to our friends and family daily.

Are you projecting the kind of movie you want others to see? Are you happy with your role on screen?

We are all projectionists.

But we are not all projecting good stories.

What if we could live out better stories? What effect would it have on those around us?

It would have an effect bigger than we can fully understand!

However, we are not all impressionists. We do not directly control the impact our projections have on others. We cannot force our critics to write good movie reviews — nor should we waste efforts coaxing them.

Even still, at a minimum, we have indirect influence on how our projections are seen. We are in direct control of everything others see about us.

We determine the plot. The content. The supporting characters. The action. The body language. The dialog.

And the growth — a result of story.

Though others’ interpretations of our projections are left to the beholder, we are obligated and liberated to present ourselves well, living out the most powerful story possible.

Here’s hoping we project something worth seeing.

Imagine watching a movie about your life story. What would it say? What would you want it to say?