What happens to wonky ideas?

Organisations are rarely fertile ground for new ideas. To be welcomed, they must not threaten the current business model or the hierarchy that has prospered on it. They must present an acceptable risk, promising high return levels, and preferably utilise existing skills and assets. They should offer robust intellectual property. Like fruit and vegetables in a supermarket, they should be clean, perfectly formed, fit the packaging and most definitely not be wonky. It’s a tough life, being a new idea.

So what happens to wonky ideas? They might prosper in different organisational soil, but that would be embarrassing. On the other hand, they might be really delicious ideas, but we might never find out if they cannot pass the superficial beauty test.

Twenty-seven publishers rejected Theodor Giesel’s book until a friend helped him out. Dr Seuss did rather well in the end. 

Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

The Beatles were told, “guitar groups are on the way out.”

The list goes on. Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, said, “‘I think there is a world market for about five computers.’ 

Right now, I think the world is full of wonky ideas about new forms of agriculture, energy, carbon capture, and other ideas whose wonkiness may give us the breakthroughs we need. I watched BBC’s “The Trick” last night about the undermining of Phil Jones research on climate change on the run-up to the Paris accord on climate change in 2009 and saw the same rejection of wonkiness as in big Tobaacl, and Big Oil, and Big……. It made me seeth.

Old ideas will not save us. But new, inconvenient, wonky ones might.

Maybe it’s not the ideas that are wonky, but our forms of organisation. 

We need to think about that.

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