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Why Good Ideas are Bad, with Michael Schrage

Ideas are the wrong unit of measurement for innovation, says author Michael Schrage. Instead he recommends reframing good ideas as testable hypotheses that can be run in a fast, simple, cheap business experiment.

Michael Schrage: By far the most controversial thing I wrote in the book is the notion that good ideas are bad. And being a quasi-academic and somebody who, in theory, loves and likes good ideas this realization, dare I say epiphany, came as a bit of a shock to me. But the reality is when you do a hard-core, realistic, pragmatic analysis of the economic value of ideas you realize for most organizations the overwhelming majority of ideas they have lose the money. They do not break even. Good ideas are bad. Ideas are the wrong unit of analysis for thinking about innovation. Ideas have a great brand, you know. Somebody says, "I have a great idea," people pay attention. If you say, "I have a brilliant hunch," they’re going to look at you like you’re a nut. If you say, "I have a passionate belief," they’re going to look at you like you’re a religious zealot. Ideas have a great brand and under that brand umbrella people sort of overweight someone who says I have a good idea. I think saying that you have a good idea is saying like, “Well, gee.” It’s like an art critic saying, reviewing how much the art costs or how much a sculpture weighs. Ideas are the wrong unit of analysis. Why? Because what happens to the majority of ideas as we try to march them towards implementation? We come to the sad realization that, gee, it seemed like a good idea at the time. And so there’s a bit of a survivorship bias.

You know, the good ideas that survive are celebrated as a good idea. All the “good ideas” that died along the way, cost us money along the way, wasted our time along the way, wasted our emotion along the way. They’re forgotten and buried. Good ideas are bad. My book is about the better unit of analysis if you care about innovation. I think you need to have the rigor and intellectual self-discipline not to think in terms of what is a good idea, but what is a testable hypothesis? What is a testable hypothesis? And you know what? Even that’s not good enough. That testable hypothesis has to be simple to test. It has to be easy to test. And it has to be cheap to test because finding the Higgs boson is a multibillion-dollar hypothesis to test. Most organizations can’t afford to test multibillion-dollar hypotheses. Most organizations don’t have the time or the money, let alone the interest, on this. So one of the most important takeaways I encourage people to think about and rethink about is if you have what you think is a good idea, the best way to get a return on that investment is to reframe that good idea as a testable hypothesis that can be run in a fast, simple, cheap business experiment.


 

 

Ideas are the wrong unit of measurement for innovation, says Michael Schrage, author of The Innovator's Hypothesis. This is because so many ostensibly "good ideas" are a drain on capital that eventually end up going nowhere. Instead of investing in ideas, Schrage recommends reframing them as testable hypotheses that can be run in a fast, simple, cheap business experiment. It's out of these that firms and innovators acquire the most value.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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How to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone

Unless you plan to try again in 6,800 years, this week is your shot.

Image source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Comet NEOWISE will be most visible in the U.S. during the evenings from July 14-19, 2020.
  • After July 23rd, NEOWISE will be visible only through good binoculars and telescopes.
  • Look in the northwestern sky below the Big Dipper after dusk while there's a chance.

UPDATE: NASA is broadcasting a NASA Science Live episode highlighting Comet NEOWISE. NASA experts will discuss and answer public questions beginning at 3PM EST on Wednesday, July 15. Tune in via the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, Twitch, or USTREAM.

Before last evening, July 14, 2020, the easiest way to see Comet NEOWISE — the brightest comet to zoom past Earth since 1977's Comet Hale-Bopp — from the United States was to catch it about an hour before sunrise. Now, however, you can see it in the evening, where it will remain for until the 19th. This is a definite don't-miss event — NEOWISE won't be coming back our way for another 6,800 years. It's the first major comet of the millennium, and by all accounts, it's unforgettable.

NEOWISE just got back from the Sun

Comet NEOWISE is named after the NASA infrared space telescope that first spotted it on March 27th. Its official moniker is C/2020 F3. It's estimated that the icy comet is about three miles across, not counting its tail.

NEOWISE is now heading away from our Sun, having made it closet approach, 27.4 million miles, to our star on July 3. The heat from that encounter is what's given NEOWISE its tail: It caused gas and dust to be released from the icy object, creating the tail of debris that looks so magical from here.

As NEOWISE moves closer to Earth, paradoxically, it will be less and less visible. By about July 23rd, you'll need binoculars or a telescope to see it at all. All of which makes this week prime time.

An evening delight

star constellation in sky

Image source: Allexxandar/Shutterstock/Big Think

First, find an unobstructed view of the northwest sky, free of streetlights, car headlights, apartment lights, and so on. And then, according to Sky & Telescope:

"Start looking about one hour after sunset, when you'll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness."

It should be easy to spot since it's near to one of the most recognizable constellations up there, the Big Dipper. "Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to the right." Et voilà: Comet NEOWISE.

Says Sky & Telescope's Diana Hannikainen, "Look for a faint, fuzzy little 'star' with a fainter, fuzzier little tail extending upward from it."

The comet should be visible with the naked eye, though binoculars and a simple telescope may reveal more detail.

You may also be able to snap a photo of this special visitor, though you'll need the right gear to do so. A dedicated camera is more likely to capture a good shot than a telephone, but in either case, you'll need a tripod or some other means of holding the camera dead still as it takes a timed exposure of several seconds (not all phones can do this).

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