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Week 42, 2021 — Issue #174

Reading Notes III: Horowitz on Bad Ideas, Ives on Fragile Ideas, Catmull on Ugly Ideas

Photo by FORTYTWO on Unsplash

Each week: three ideas on the future of work and organization. This week: three ideas on… ideas! Originally published in the WorkMatters newsletter on October 22, 2021.

Innovation is hard and there are several reasons why. But one reason stands above the rest: innovation requires us to be contrarian. It requires that we go against the grain. And as the following quotes clearly show, that can be uncomfortable.

1. Horowitz on Bad Ideas

“The problem is that obviously good ideas are not truly innovative, and truly innovative ideas often look like very bad ideas when they’re introduced.” — Ben Horowitz

Horowitz is the co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He’s also an author. The above quote comes from What You Do Is Who You Are.

2. Ives on Fragile Ideas

“[W]hile ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised” — Jonathan Ives

Ives worked at Apple from 1992 to 2019, most recently as its Chief Design Office. The quote is taken from this tribute to Steve Jobs.

3. Catmull on Ugly Ideas

“Originality is fragile…That is why I call early mock-ups of our films ‘Ugly Babies.’…They are truly ugly: awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete”. — Ed Catmull

Catmull is President at Pixar and Disney Animation. And like Horowitz, he’s also an author. This quote comes from Creativity, Inc.

Catmull goes on to write that innovative ideas “need nurturing — in the form of time and patience — in order to grow.” And I think that’s true. But I wonder if that’s enough?

As Horowitz points out, it’s hard to distinguish good ideas from bad ones. And to make matters worse, bad ideas practically invite resistance.

So yes, innovative ideas need time to form. And yes, innovators do need patience. But they also need grit. Because as Ives points out, it’s all too easy to compromise on new and nascent ideas.

This is especially true for radical innovations. As Bertrand Russel famously wrote “the resistance to a new idea increases as the square of its importance.”

That’s all for this week.
Until next time: Make it matter.




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Andreas Holmer

Andreas Holmer

Designer, reader, writer. Sensemaker. Management thinker. CEO at MAQE — a digital consulting firm in Bangkok, Thailand.