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Posted: July 23, 2009

Absurd ideas create success

But first, you may have to retrain your brain

Steve Baker

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” -- Albert Einstein

I think we can all agree that Albert Einstein was a pretty smart guy and came up with some great ideas and concepts, but his quote above is also great advice to all of us in business. It’s a quote that I have printed on my business card and something I embrace in creating new companies and products.

A recession is a great opportunity to start a business and go out on your own, and there is an explosion of people doing just that. A huge number of Boomers, who have been thrown out of their corporate lives, think they will now become entrepreneurs and strike out on their own.  They think, “Hey, I spent 20 years in management of that corporation so I can certainly run my own little startup.”

But hold on there, newbie. To be a successful entrepreneur, you may first have to retrain your brain. If you spent time at a large company in management, accounting, finance or general data control, you’ve been living in a left-brain world with left-brain thinking.

In a standard corporate environment, we often get stuck in logical, rational left-brain "linear thinking" following the same thought paths that the industry uses and we recognize as the norm.

That’s not a necessarily a bad thing. For a big, stable company, it can be a good thing. It's a logical, secure path that we're comfortable with, but it does not inspire new ideas. You can’t steer a giant battle ship on impulse – and you also can’t turn one on a dime.

Right versus left is not just in politics.

A small startup is a different world that requires different thinking. In a new small business we begin to look at new and different ways to do our business. We must be creative, impulsive and move quickly to adapt to the constant changes that come with every new day. Your right brain is the creative side and must be activated and running on all cylinders so you don’t get stuck on one idea or process.

Luke Mansfield, head of innovation in the London office of branding agency Landor Associates, points out that, "If your business has only one answer, or one definition of innovation, it’s time to try something new. You will be amazed at the results."

Embrace the absurd! Many successful inventors, innovators, marketing and business people started out with what others considered an absurd, silly, can't-be-done idea. You know, the light bulb, wind-powered electrical generators, the list goes on throughout history.

I love kids. They are the greatest inventors.  I am always delighted by kids’ boundless excitement and enthusiasm for life -- and their wide imaginations. They have this uninhibited ability to think the absurd, imagine the undoable openly and without reservations.

But alas, they are then taught the linear thinking in a regimented world and join the rest of the dead heads.

We should never stop asking "What if?" and "Why not?" Be ABSURD, think crazy thoughts, have impossible ideas!

If you have or can capture that childlike absurd enthusiasm, don't let anyone cool you off or calm you down because you, my friend, are headed toward success. Just think, if Al had not thought the absurd, someone would have come up with E=ONICBD (oh never mind, it can't be done).

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Steve Baker is a founder of successful businesses and a business advisor with a passion for every phase of business cycle from startup to exit He’s also a public speaker and author of "Pushing Water Uphill With a Rake," as well as an avid poor golfer. He welcomes your comments and e-mails at steve@PushingWater.com  and invites you to visit his website www.PushingWater.com
 

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

After 20 years in Public Accounting-I decided to become the Artist that provides Merchant Services. How Absurd is that? Just remember to do what you enjoy when starting a new business. If your not good at the book side of things hire someone who is. I have seen too many business owner's fall because of little things like taxes. WWW.ArtByAneeda or Merchant Services 303.268.5519 By Aneeda Contadeluci on 2009 07 29
I am on my third startup and people often ask me for advice. While there are myriad aspects of starting and running a business that need to come together to produce success, there is one element that is most important. In my opinion, the starting point for all entrepreneurial success is having an idea or business angle that meets a need in a unique way. The bigger the need is and the more unique or absurd your idea is, the better your chances of success. Without an absurd idea you will be, to quote a great man, “pushing water uphill with a rake.” Thanks Steve for reminding us about such a fundamental business lesson. By Matt Dombrow on 2009 07 28
I was 'absurd' enough to start my own business last November...afterall, the economy was in the tank, I have two kids in college, a third on the way to college in two years, a mortgage, and assorted other bills. What better time to start a business!! Better still, what in the hell was I thinking?! Steve's advice always helps keep my head on straight and to 'think as a customer.' Thanks for the advice Steve. By Marc Williams on 2009 07 27
Hi Steve, Good thoughts, thanks for sharing! I am also a believer in the many possibilities that can be uncovered when we are brave enough to think--and do--outside the box. As a multimedia producers and storytellers, exploring new and innovative ways to accomplish our own goals, and those of our clients, is an enjoyable daily exercise. I enjoy your story, and how you use it in business... I will be checking into your blog. Cheers! By Jessica Chance on 2009 07 27
Steve, Some very good thoughts on those starting or comtemplating a new venture. You are right that you need to start using the creative as well as the analytical side of your brain. Great companies have been started in down times where the entrepreneur has found new ways to do things that others said "it couldn't be done" By Neil McKenzie on 2009 07 27
Thanks Steve, you always have great ideas and concepts to share with all of us. We should all be putting on our "thinking caps" everyday and think "outside the box". It's really gonna help us to become successful in our businesses and relationships. We enjoy you being part of our group! By Julie Case on 2009 07 27
Steve...you are so good about being absurd...some might not agree with your great article...to them I quote... “Just when I thought I knew everything, they changed all the rules.” – SAMUEL LANNGHORNE CLEMENTS (MARK TWAIN) By Larry Nelson on 2009 07 27
Good info. It's never been possible to be revolutionary and not think outside the box. Some absurd ideas have taken our lives to where we are today. By Jay on 2009 07 27
Good food for thought Steve. Absurd people many times are those that have created entreprenurial endeavors or taken business models into new directions. We are a company that feature "think outside of the box" values. Keep up the good work friend. Matt By Dr. Matt on 2009 07 27
Nice article. Businesses have to be more creative to succeed. Thanks!! By Gunther R. Mueller on 2009 07 27
Props to you Steve! Article hit home for me, recently left corp USA and launching two internet ventures http://www.cobizmag.com/images/smileys/smile.gif Looking forward to reading your blogs! Gary Gaessler By Gary Gaessler on 2009 07 27
Many of the my clients/prospects coming out of the corporate world have dynamic, creative and relevant ideas. They are taking this opportunity to test themselves in the marketplace before returning to new employment. The ones who thrive are the ones who make a commitment, ask the right questions, find support, write out business plans and find funding. I have found invention and exploration is their best attribute. By David Veal on 2009 07 23
Hey there, Steve. Not only am I a playful girly (meaning that the absurd, silly and ridiculous can't be taken out of mwah), I also feel as if I am swimming against the tide for the most part. It's tough to believe how tunnel-visioned most people are and I'm glad that you are not only writing about this stuff, you are sending it out. Maybe people will finally get it... Thank you! Ruthie By Ruthie on 2009 07 23

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