If you bring it to me I will try to break it...

A disclaimer

The following does not refer to dishes, hearts, windows, fine china, or your grandmother's favourite gravy boat (although the picture is somewhat misleading... it's a classic bait and switch). 


What I am referring to is an idea... that is what I will try to break.

I was reminded of this the other day when a colleague said a little apologetically, "Please don't misunderstand me... just because I pick at the idea doesn't mean I don't like it. It is just my way."

If I had an inquisitive look on my face it was not because of what he said but rather that he felt he had to apologize. I knew where he was coming from and I simply said, "There is no need to apologize, I would expect you to try to break it".

But why would you want to be so destructive, you may ask... particularly if it's one of those "very cool ideas" from one of those "very cool Millennials".

The answer is simple, if your idea cannot withstand the pressures from a trusted few, how do you expect it to be successful in the wild, wild west of the real word where Darwinian dogma prevails.

Maybe the bigger question is how do you go about attempting to break an idea; what I mean to say is, "What does the attempt to break an idea actually look like (other than the image of smashing a vase with a sledge hammer)?" Apart from the truism that trying to break an idea is the right thing to do, I am not suggesting that my way is the best way, the only way, or even the most powerful way; all I can say is it has proven fairly effective in the past. With that said, this is my way:


Ideas are best broken around the table in an informal setting. Sure a presentation, handouts and a computer can be used to guide the conversation, but the goal is to minimize the "marketing and enthusiasm" that more often than not come with an idea. A setting for candid curiosity, discussion and conversation is needed. 

Questions - W5 & H

Who, What, Where, When, Why & How: This "word framework" can be used to create a wide variety of questions that can drive discussion, conversation and understanding. A few that come to mind:

  • Who will be interested in your idea?
  • What exactly is your idea?
  • Where would your idea be applicable?
  • When would you be able to make your idea become a reality?
  • Why would anyone care about your idea?
  • How would you go about making your idea become a reality?
  • et cetera

I think I may have been remiss in mentioning that "attempting to break an idea" is not to determine if the idea is a good or bad one, but rather help make it a workable idea that you can make the most of.

Discussion, conversation and understanding

Is the idea a "solution looking for a problem"? In other words, is there need for the idea and does anyone really want it.

Is there a mandate, conviction and co-operation for the idea? There needs to be a goal, objectives, and a plan to make the idea workable, a driving conviction to make the idea happen no matter what, and an ability to rally people around the idea. Because in the end, you need the co-operation of people to make anything happen. 

Is the leadership present to make the idea workable? There are lots of great ideas out there, but not always the right leadership in place to make them happen; for that matter, it's not uncommon to have the right leadership with an unworkable idea. The consideration is to ensure both are in place.

Is the idea aligned with your objectives? The reality is if an idea is not aligned with your objectives, it doesn't really matter how workable the idea is or the dedication of the leadership. If your objective is to build a widget faster, you just aren't that interested in a fantastic idea to remove stains from your coat. The idea is not for you.

What is the risk? The questions are simple, "What are the risks that will prevent the idea from becoming workable?" and "What can be done to mitigate any risks?" Everyone's risk tolerance is different so this needs to be deeply explored as part of the discussion.

Feedback. Candid and honest consideration to the idea, and thoughts as to how it can be made workable, is the ultimate goal. The idea may not be right for you, but it probably is for someone else.

I'm the end I'm not really trying to break the idea but make it stronger, and in my experience the more people you have trying to break it, the stronger your idea will become. Then it's just a matter of working your ass off to make it happen.