Don’t Give Up on a Great Idea Just Because It Seems Obvious

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Andrew Forman for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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I spent eight years failing to act on an innovative idea that I knew would work. It was an idea that had not just technological promise but also societal value. It would help people contribute to the most important, impactful charities in the country. But I kept letting it languish.

The biggest reason I held back wasn’t fear, being too busy or lazy, or any of the other natural blockades to entrepreneurship. It was something else.

I didn’t move on this idea because it seemed obvious. It made so much sense to me that I was convinced someone else would do it. So, I assumed it would be a waste of time and energy for me.

I was wrong. And it turns out I would have known better if I had listened to some of the best-known innovators, including Isaac Asimov and Steve Jobs. Obviousness, it turns out, is a common — and even important — part of the creative process. Whether you’re considering the possibility of launching a startup or you want to create change within your organization, learn from my experience. Don’t procrastinate like I did.

For years, I organized charity fundraisers at bars. I’d gather friends together, discuss a cause and present information about an organization helping that cause. I’d show photos, tell stories, and explain how each charity helped.

These crowds included young investment bankers, who often agreed to contribute $500 or $1,000. I’d thank them and ask if they had a check. They’d respond, “A check? No, I’m 25. I don’t use checks.” So, I’d explain that they could contribute to the charity via its website. Asking them to surf to a website on their mobile phones at the bar just didn’t work. Many would say they’d take care of it at home sometime, from a computer. But, despite the best of intentions, most didn’t. The only contributions I’d end up with from these events were in cash, usually a few hundred dollars total in $20 bills from whoever had extra cash on them

Meanwhile, when the bar tab would come at these same events, we’d split it by paying each other through our apps, such as Venmo. That’s when I realized there should be a simple app that allows people to contribute to any U.S. charity.

See? Obvious. So even though I knew I could gather a team to build such a tool, I figured someone else would do it. I let that assumption hold me back. Instead, I should have taken the sense of obviousness as a reason to move forward with the idea.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Andrew Forman is the co-founder of Givz, an online charitable donation platform.



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