Good ideas, bad.
What's a leader to think these days?
First, let's credit the origin and explore the two assertions.
Although, it's probably not the first time anybody realized it, Michael Shrage's take on the peril and sunk cost of "good ideas" comes through clearly in his "The Innovator's Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More Than Good Ideas."
In the book, Shrage states early in one chapter a manifesto many a home builder--entrepreneur, midsize, or enterprise--can relate to enthusiastically:
"Good ideas are actually the enemy of productivity. A focus on good ideas inflicts terrible damage--operational and emotional--on good managers and good businesses alike. Business ideaholics, not unlike meth addicts and other junkies, are always looking for the next fix. They crave the buzz, rush, or high that supposedly comes from injecting a really good idea into their managerial mainstream. Good ideas might be better described as the empty calories of enterprise innovation: accessible, tasty, and momentarily satisfying. But they're not good for you. They'll make you sick."
Quite an indictment of a "skillset" revered among many leaders and organizations as an essential component of agility and resilient capability in a fast-moving target business and economic environment.
As Jim Collins avers that good is the enemy of great, Shrage's claim is that leaders--to cut to the chase--should focus on ROI in the sense of return on implementation. The worth of initiatives is in their ability to be done, proven, adopted or dropped in favor of the next implementation. Shrage notes that, as leaders, the syntax of an expression of an idea usually has two parts, the verb and the noun. Human nature seems to draw most of our attentions to the noun, the "what" or the outcome. The secret sauce, however, is the verb, the action, the behavioral process needed to produce the outcome.
This leads to the second of the two assertions above, that mistakes are good.
This, thought, of course, is related to the first, and its phrasing is Seth Godin's.
Here's the gist of it:
It's all a mistake
...until it works.
That's what innovation is. Mistakes, experiments, mis-steps.
... our job is to eagerly embrace the mistakes on the road to the impact that we seek.
Three questions lie underneath these two somewhat contrarian notions, each of which has trust and credibility as essential.
Who are you?
Who do you want to be?
Who do you want your customers to be?
Ideas won't get you to the answers of those questions.
Mistakes will be a critical part of your getting to them.