Good-Idea-Bad-Idea

Is My Idea Good or Bad?

When I talk to most people about their ideas, they often think in terms of “is my idea a good idea, or is it a bad idea?”. I can honestly say that most of the ideas I have heard are pretty decent ideas, or are at least ideas that seem helpful and useful in certain situations. Unfortunately, asking if your idea is good or bad is the wrong question, because it is ultimately just someone’s opinion until the idea is proven to work and be popular after it is built. You are also unlikely to get honest answers from people you ask, because they won’t want to offend you – especially if you are mainly asking friends and relatives.

The Better Question

The question you should be asking instead (before your idea is built) is “How feasible is my idea?”. This question is a lot harder to answer, and a lot more thought goes into it. The answer depends on the current state of technology (technical feasibility), what types of integrations your app will require, what kind of data you need, and ultimately on how much time it will take, and how much money it will cost.

Technical Feasibility

Some ideas are helpful ones, but upon deeper thought, are just not technically feasible, or have so many obstacles or hurdles in the way that they would be more trouble than they are worth for most people working with limited time and resources.

Example

A friend of mine recently lost his wallet, and suggested that their should be an app for canceling your credit cards. He then went on to describe how many calls he had to make and how many days he wasted canceling all his cards and waiting for the new ones to come in. He asked what I thought of it.

The idea itself seems like a useful idea that would save a lot of time if you found yourself in this particular scenario, but I could immediately see all the obstacles that would make this idea very difficult to build, and very unlikely to succeed:

  • Security: You would have to store real credit card numbers in the app, which means full PCI-DSS compliance and inspection plus the risk potential for embarrassing and company-bankrupting data breaches.
  • Integrations: You would have to have a way to report a card number as lost or stolen to all of the card issuers automatically (in this case, through the app with the click of a button). This requires cooperation and integration with will all the major card issuers (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover, etc.) at a minimum.
  • Practicality: Much like data backups, people often do not realize the benefit of “worst case scenario” planning until they experience the pain of being without it. This means you would have to get people to invest money and time upfront inputting all their card data into your app when nothing bad has happened and they still have all their cards with them.

Moving Forward

Next time an idea pops into your head, don’t be too concerned with whether or not the idea is “good” or “bad” by someone else’s subjective opinion – just try to think through the idea a little bit first by asking some basic questions:

  • Does this idea require working with or integrating with another company for anything, or can I do it all myself? Do these integrations exist already?
  • Does this idea require any data I need, but don’t have? If so, where can I get it?
  • What type of data do I need to store? Are there any risks involved?

You may not know the answer to the questions above, but they will at least give you a good starting point to begin thinking through your idea to figure out whether or not the idea is worth pursuing.

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One thought on “Is My Idea Good or Bad?”

  1. Incidentally, your example service is one that Amex already offers: you register all the cards in your wallet with them, make one phone call, and they cancel everything for you. This brings us to another two important bullet points: (1) adequate research on existing comparable/related solutions, and (2) differentiation.

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