The Fear of the Big Idea

By Dave Hardy written about 11 months ago

Something caught me off guard recently. I wasn't ready for it. I was about to leave my hotel room to attend a meeting when I saw a recently released one-minute story created by General Electric.


As a designer/art director I was struck by how well executed this piece of work was. However, I couldn't help but ask, “Why would GE make it? What was its purpose?” I visited the GE website and the very first message I saw was this: 

“Zero chance? Excellent! Those are the kind of odds we like. Every day, GE is pushing the boundaries of what's possible.”

GE's brand is about creating, about imagining a better future powered by its products. The ad was created to educate people on the challenges they face when trying to introduce a new concept into the world — a way for people to understand how fragile a concept can be and how it constantly lives on the edge of being extinguished.

Wait, what? Challenges? Extinguished!?

We are a progressive civilization where ideas are embraced, correct? We live in a modernist society where technological advances are welcome, where the next idea propels us toward a brighter, better future. Where is the challenge? Surely, the challenge lives in generating the ideas, not in their release into the world, not in the idea’s potential to create the utopia we all strive towards. 

Naively, this is what I had believed all my life until recently. I wasn't ready for what that GE video so creatively expressed.

I wasn't ready for the idea that people wouldn't want great ideas — that people wouldn't want to create new ways of doing things.

I am a generator of ideas. I love it. I have been lucky enough to be in a position in my life where I have been trusted to create for people. I believe in the power of a well executed idea and the excitement generated by the change it can bring. I have always challenged myself to create bigger ideas, ideas that create a tidal wave of change. I always thought the reason an idea didn't come to life was because it wasn't good enough, because I wasn't good enough. 

But I'm wrong; the ideas are good enough. In fact, they just might be too good — too scary, too big, too much of a change for those it would affect.  

As I sit here and write, Uber continues to grow and change the world, inciting anger and fear in those who are threatened by that change. On the face of it, you would say Uber has revolutionized the taxi service industry and brought more options and a better service to the general public. However, this has done something else very important: It has created change, and for many, with change comes fear.  

I'm going to let you in on a secret, if you are not willing to create and lead change, somebody else will.

I’ve seen it. We all have. The reason there is hate and anger directed towards Uber is because people have had control taken away from them. They have gone from a position of strength to becoming a victim of their own stagnation. 

As the GE ad says, "Ideas are the natural born enemy of the way things are," and, yes, they are. I get it; when an idea is released, it may not be celebrated, it will probably hurt people, it will probably be messy and that in itself can be enough to not move forward. It can be hard, but no one said change is easy. 

Ideas can change the world. But, are we going to look on that change as something to be afraid of, or are we going to lead the change with confidence? Unfortunately, there is no middle ground here. Middle ground is simply compromise and compromise leads to mediocrity. You may as well do nothing and save yourself the energy and money.

Either lead or be irrelevant. Be in control, or be okay with letting others control you. 

By choosing to create change as my career, I have made the decision to help people and companies define their own future. But no one can create that change alone. The idea can be created, but it will have to be "treated with the proper care." In other words, it will have to be protected and fought for, knowing that it's not going to make everyone happy because of the change it will make. 

So, when you’re looking to create something new, ask yourself a key question: Are you ready for that idea — an idea that causes the ripple of change and all the consequences that come with it? Are you ready to create something truly great?

I am. Come and talk to me when you are.