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Questions that improve ideas and communication

August 29, 2011

Ideas are easy to come by these days, but how do you tell the difference between good and bad ones? Relying on gut instincts can be a valid indicator of whether something is worth pursuing or not, but when it comes to communicating your ideas, you need a clear argument for why something is worth others’ attention. Presenting a solid argument for a well-tested idea is no guarantee of success, but it is the best foundation you can give yourself in the quest for it.

Useful questions

To increase the potential of your idea (and prepare yourself for critique), you could start by asking these important questions:

  • Does the idea address an existing demand, or do I need to convince others of how this will add value to their lives? Failing to address a real demand doesn’t mean you should deem it a failure. Sometimes people are not aware of what they want, and sometimes they can get hooked on something irresistible.
  • Do I know the whats, whys and hows of the idea, or is it difficult for me to explain the bottom line of the concept? If you’re not sure of what it is about, how can you convince others that you’re onto the next big thing?
  • Is your idea generally welcomed by a variety of people, or do you have problems convincing people other than your friends and family that it is a good idea? Support from loved ones and your inner circle is something you can usually expect to get – no matter how good or bad the idea is. If strangers don’t show real interest in what you’re saying, you’ve got to refine it.

Going deeper

Notice that these questions have two components to them: the fact and the communication aspect. For example, if there is a low or an uncertain level of demand (fact), how can you convey to others that something has value (communication)? And if you’re unclear about the content of the idea (fact), how are you then able to make this clear to others (communication)? And finally: is it easy to get support for your idea (fact), or do you struggle to convince them that this is worth their time (communication)? The more you explore these questions in advance, the more confident and prepared you will be when you need to suggest the ideas.

Sometimes, your vision seems clearer or easier than the practical elements involved in realizing it. Being stubborn on vision can help you persist with the hard work involved in redefining an idea until it’s just right. But it’s important to remember that excessive confidence can also cause you to ignore details that get in the way of achieving success.

Testing before communicating

Once you get into the habit of testing ideas, you will find weaknesses in concepts that would have been spotted by the people you want to win over. If something seems impossible to understand clearly or you feel like you’re banging your head against a wall, others will most probably fail to get your point too. Perhaps you have some taken steps in the wrong direction – in which case asking questions can clarify your thoughts.

In the business world, ideas are not just about coming up with something good – it’s about making them work. Innovation is mostly a collaborative effort that needs the approval and effort of many people, so you are doing yourself a favor when you ask the questions others will eventually ask you anyway.

What do you ask yourself when you’re uncertain about your ideas?

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