The problem with the “idea guy”

Being the “idea guy” alone isn’t a problem, unless you have absolutely no idea how to implement those ideas, and whether they are practical or not. That’s when it’s a problem.

During the design period for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago the architects were trying to come up with something that would top the Eiffel Tower in Paris that was unveiled at the 1889 World’s Fair and became known as the grandest world fair in existence. They were stumped, so they asked for a submission of ideas.

One gentleman, proposed a tower that was 9 times taller than the Eiffel Tower, that would have rails at the top, and through the gentle slope created by the height fair goers could return to New York, where many of them would have departed from if coming in from Europe, via cart.

This is a grand idea. However, it also has huge logistical hurdles. There is a reason Eiffel didn’t build his tower significantly taller, it’s difficult. So taking the tallest tower in the world, build with the most advanced methods of the era and thinking that it’s possible to 9 times that is not realistic.

Take the second part, returning to New York via rail. The rails don’t just float between New York and Chicago. They need support. This would require building a multitude, likely hundreds or thousands, of towers taller than the Eiffel Tower to support the rails. The economics are next to impossible to justify.

This “idea guy” for this submission may have had a grand idea, but he had no idea how his idea would be implemented, if he did, he wouldn’t have submitted it.

How do we get past being the “idea guy” then?

  • Do some preliminary work – Create an execution plan and a sample budget. Working through those items will help you figure out the feasibility, and if you won’t put at least this level of work into something, why should anyone else listen to the grand idea?
  • Come up with ideas in your area of expertise or study – I’m not sure if the person who submitted the rails to New York idea was an engineer or not. However, I don’t see it likely that he was otherwise he would have understood the supports need under the rails make things nearly impossible.

The “idea guy” isn’t inherently bad. There are business leaders out there who have employees working for them and develop ideas that the team then executes on, however, the ideas need to be developed into actual plans, and during that work is where the feasibility (or lack of it) is found.

We need plans more than ideas.