The Problem with Ideas

The problem with ideas is that they are not visions.

Ideas are short-term, not thought out well, incomplete.

Visions are long-term, well thought out, complete.

This post started out as something quite different as what it ended up being. And of course I love it. I love how writing helps me to understand my own thinking better. It’s fabulous I love it.

That said, I am not actually sure what this post started out being. I know that I went to a service project today, and I know that I was bothered by this one thing that I couldn’t name, and I know that I wanted to figure out what that one thing was. So, I suppose this post started as a quest to find the right words to express how I am feeling. 

And here it is – the thesis, the main idea, the most important idea in this post that all other points mentioned should support: Every idea you have is not a vision, so don’t act on every single idea you have as if it were a vision.

Back Story: The service project today was to clean up a community garden.  It felt great cleaning it up. It was loads of fun, and I really enjoyed doing it. I got to show-off my gardening skills (thank you mom!), and the place looked really nice by the time we left.

Now, the story of the garden is that it was built in 2010-ish, and through 2011, it was maintained fairly well. The guy who managed it died in 2011, and since then, it has gone through multiple clean-ups by random groups. The woman who is kind-of-sort-of over the garden was very nice, and we chatted for quite some time about various different things. She was sweet and kind and so excited that we were there. Still, when I asked her what the purpose or the vision behind the garden was, she told me 3 different things that they thought could have worked, and, clearly, none of them ended up working. This tells me one thing: The founding organization did not have a vision; they had an idea (or ideas) that sounded really good, so they got money to support it.

But that is it. The thing about vision is that it needs to long-term; you can’t just plant a garden and say, “That was fun! Let’s grab a beer.” No, you have to maintain it. You have to continue to have money and support and resources. And if you don’t have a plan or a sort-of plan for how you’re going to get those things in the long-term, you just have an idea. And ideas, while sexy and fun, are not real-life. They don’t really get you anywhere.

Here’s where this is going: We have to stop getting ideas, funding them, and then watching them fall to pieces. I believe very strongly that THIS IS HARMFUL, not only to the reputation of an organization, but also to the people who are supposed to have been helped. Just because something can get funded does not mean that it needs to be funded. Just because something can be started does not mean that it can be finished.

My good friend Robin (proving I have friends) and I were talking about this the other day. Basically, the conversation was about how so many organizations get too big too fast, or attempt to do too much. There is so much power in doing one thing really, really, really well. There is so much power in having a vision (not an idea) that is extremely focused and specific so that it can be executed and maintained well. We have got to reclaim the idealism that says, “Doing one thing well is better than doing a lot of things half-ass-ly,” or we’re just going to end up with a bunch of served-well-sometimes, half-served, or not-served-at-all people. And that is not what we want. 

What we want, or at least what I want, is to work with an organization that has a clear and consistent vision AND a group of people who will work diligently to accomplish and maintain that vision.

What do you think: have I totally oversimplified the problem and, in the process, offended a lot of good-intentioned people (you know what they say about good intentions…)? Or do organizations really try to do too much? And how can we solve this? Or can we?

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One thought on “The Problem with Ideas

  1. I totally agree with your statement about needing a complete vision instead of a short term idea. The brillent thing about a “vision” is that it becomes more on its own, it spouts other vision and has the resources to supply the extention of that offshot vision.

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