Unfinished business

I keep getting ideas from time to time. These little moments of inspiration usually occur out of nowhere. Sometimes, the idea that pops into the head is related to something I am working on, such as: "Oh perhaps if this screwdriver had a magnetic tip, it would be easier to use". Most of the times, though, these are just random ideas which pop up during absolutely irrelevant times. For example, when working on one software project, I am reminded of the exact configuration on some totally unrelated machine that would solve someone else's problem. The point being: they come aplenty, and they are not necessarily related to the task at hand.

Now, such ideas are of two kinds. One kind are improvement ideas, or "feature enhancements" in software engineering lingo. The others are quick fixes to problems that I might have been pondering about for a while. The third set of ideas (which, although I began the paragraph with "two kinds" still makes sense), is that of radical change: what if we could make the hydro-electric dam turbines spin backwards. Of course, these dam turbine ideas are very few and far between, and we don't even recognize half of them when they pass us by.

The problem with the situation is not the incessant flow of ideas - they are very very welcome in fact. The problem lies with the scant implementation of these details. How many times has it happened that you had a brilliant idea, and then forgot all about it, until a year or two later you found a successful business or a well-cited publication which is exactly doing what you thought up! Don't you feel like kicking yourself in your other leg when that happens?

In all fairness, there are reasons why we cannot follow each and every idea we have. As far as "feature enhancements" go, you never know if there is a variation of the thing at hand which already implements the "new way" you were thinking about. It would take some (and perhaps a lot of) research before you can be sure your idea is indeed unique. Also, you don't know if the original manufacturers aren't already building your "idea" into a newer version. The second kind, the quick-fixes, are actually good to have. Because often you can solve the problem with the idea you had once you resume working at it. However, if it is one of those things that are nice to have, then sometimes you may just feel too lazy to get it done. The last kind - the revolutionary ones - well, most of the times they are too good to be true, and they really aren't true. Besides, behind all these kinds of ideas is the bottom line of money: would it be worth the investment? Would it make more sense to have a super powerful image and weather analytics neural network based robotic water sprinkler, or would you just hire a gardener?

While the external detractors may exist, I believe that the biggest hurdle behind the implementation of any idea lies within ourselves - that of inertia. The laziness behind trying it out, doing a rough sketch, behind doing some research to find out if someone has done it already and if not why not - these are all things that seem like a lot of hard work even before you started on the actual work. The delicate part is always in getting started.

The solution, I have found, lies succinctly in the phrase, "Just do it". And like rebels of all time have asked, "If not us, who? If not now, when?" - I find it imperative to ask myself those questions when I bring up the excuse of not having enough time to do things. Does that mean I try and flesh out every idea that ever pops into my head? No! But that does let me choose my battles wisely. If there is something that has potential, I believe, then at least they merit a little more exploration. And the day I have my revolutionary idea, after enough research and exploration, I hope to have the courage to jump into it; to "just do it".


  1. Quite well written and true Sudipta. Good stuff!

  2. Navin, welcome back to the blog. And thank you :)

  3. As they say, the devil is in the details. Too many ideas, too few details is what derails most projects.

    Even corporates fall into this trap. Individuals cannot be blamed for having ideas that they don't ever implement.

  4. Hari, well spoken, as always! And as I am realizing, yes indeed I would love to have 48 hours in a day so that I can sleep for 36 and work the rest of the 12 :)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts