Truly Great Ideas Are Divisive (But You Should Keep Exploring Them)


I listen to a lot of podcasts about building businesses and all the different aspects of it, and there are two that’ve been particularly helpful in developing our team culture and strategies: Masters of Scale and How I Built This with Guy Raz.

There's a pattern I've noticed when learning about these large-scale entrepreneurs and their early-stage business ideas...

When a few of them first started sharing their ideas with people, opinions about the value and usefulness of those ideas were almost always divided between:

“That's a terrible idea, don't spend time on that,” and “that's a great idea, you should definitely do it."


One of the first things we learn as kids is to not talk to strangers. Now you can pull up an app, call a LYFT/Uber, and willingly climb into their vehicles.

Crazy idea.

There are 1.4 million LYFT drivers in the United States, and 2.25 million Uber drivers outside of the US.


Speaking of strangers, if the world thought inviting a total stranger into their home (and letting them act like it was their place) was bizarre — or, at the very least, an uncommon thing — take a look at all the 4 million AIRBNB listings offered in 191 countries.


In 1982, Howard Schultz joined STARBUCKS when it was small coffee roasting company — no stores.

They didn't do cups of coffee or any of that fancy stuff. At around that time, innovation around coffee just wasn't a thing.

But 4 years before Schultz was to become CEO of Starbucks, he went to Milan on a business trip and started to see that people were routinely going to cafes. There was something there, but when he came back and proposed the idea...

Starbucks was NOT interested.

But he got them to open a single cafe to test the idea.

This is simplified conclusion but... now there's a Starbucks cafe on every corner in every city, and it makes net revenues upwards of 22 billion dollars.


Sara Blakely had a hard time convincing people (manufacturers, in particular) that footless pantyhose was a good idea — they just didn't get it.

But many other people she asked thought it was an excellent idea. Lots of the women she talked to were already cutting the feet off of their own pantyhose to achieve the same result.

When she finally convinced one of the manufacturers to help her make these things, SPANX was born, and went on to be valued at 1 billion dollars.


Next time you have an idea that goes against common wisdom — next time you hear people say "you should do it!" and "that won't work!" about the same idea — keep going down that path and see where it takes you.

Sometimes the weirdest ideas are the most interesting, innovative, and valuable ones.