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October 28, 2009

Half-baked but not half-assed: Sharing your idea with others

(while we are on the subject of baking, we thought we would tempt you with Erin McKenna's delectable cookbook!)

Recently I read a great post by Charlie O’Donnell called Never Too Early To Talk. I was intrigued because this is a topic we talk a lot about with IGC members who are sometimes hesitant to share their idea before it is “ready” or for fear it will be stolen. I really liked what he said about the importance of feedback and the strategic role that it plays in the formation of your venture.

Two points that I would add -

We believe that when you cut yourself off from this kind of early stage feedback you have essentially set yourself up to run your business reactively. Done this way, you will inevitably launch your venture and then spend most of your time adjusting and changing things based on other people’s feedback, insights, and suggestions about things that could have been known before hand! Don’t get me wrong, much of running your business will be about adjusting and changing things based on feedback but it should be feedback from customers and the marketplace and about the kinds of things you couldn’t have known without trying them first.

Another benefit of sharing is that it actually allows you to informally engage others in your venture and get them emotionally invested in your success. Perhaps they could play critical roles down the line (investor, advisor, staff) or maybe they will *just* serve as champions, cheerleaders, and connectors for your venture. It is easy to forget just how much people love knowing the back story and being part of something!

As Charlie talks about & as we agree, much of the hesitancy that people experience is really an extension of their desire to perfect their idea or make sure their idea “ready” before sharing. They want all their ducks in a row. Rather than be in a position to ask questions about their idea with and to other people, they want to be in a position to answer any questions someone else might have and to be ready to “defend” – for lack of a better word - their idea.

I can completely relate to this and have at times in the past felt that how “air-tight” my idea was also correlated with:

1) my respect for the other person’s time {if I have asked for your time the least I could do is thinking through my idea enough to see if it holds water}

2) how smart I was {what hadn’t I thought of?!}

3) how good the idea was {see, not much room for improvement!}

It is these times that I have to push myself to see that half-baked really doesn’t mean half-assed. In fact, it is better to positioning to say:

here’s what I’d like to do” or “I think there could be a real opportunity to

and then say:

Given your (experience, insight), I’d love to get your thoughts.
Do you think it could work?
What am I missing?
What might you suggest doing differently?
What would your concerns be?

Half-assed is really not bothering to ask for feedback. Half-assed is not taking the time to involve others in a proper tire-kicking of the idea. Half-assed is thinking that you already know all that your venture will need to know.

{side note: in this case, not being half-assed doesn’t make you an (whole) ass – where in the heck does that phrase come from anyway?}

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