As small business owners, bureaucracy is something we relentlessly strive to avoid. And most of the time it’s relatively easy to identify: emails that pass the buck, meetings just for the sake of meetings, etc. But sometimes, bureaucracy creeps in when we least expect it: when we’re trying to push bold ideas forward.
We recently polled our business-savvy Twitter following for their thoughts on the most common excuses for not making ideas happen. If any of these sound a little too familiar, it may be time to renew your team’s commitment to a “bias toward action.”
Common excuses for not making ideas happen:
1. I don't have enough time.
Extra time, like money, rarely materializes out of thin air. We have to work for it. If finding “maker time” (e.g. space for deep, focused thinking, research, building, etc.) is a struggle for you, consider getting proactive about carving it out, and doing the most important work first.
2. I’m afraid of the competition.
Someone else doing something similar in your space is hardly a reason to give up. In fact, it’s a great reason to get more excited. As Seth Godin has said, competition validates your idea by creating a category. It also lights a fire under your ass.
3. It's not the right moment to do it.
Occasionally, this excuse has the merit of actually being valid. Twitter creator Jack Dorsey had the idea for the service back in 2000. Unfortunately, the technology that would help Twitter thrive wasn’t in place yet. But how did he recognize this? Dorsey did a small-scale implementation of the idea that flopped. Even though it failed then, the exercise crystallized the idea in his mind, and Dorsey was able to revive it later when the timing was right.
4. I’ve got to pay the bills.
Quoting a favorite tweet he read, VC Fred Wilson has been known to say, “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” Once we’ve achieved a modicum of success and stability, we’ll do almost anything we can to hang onto it. But when paying the bills starts to outweigh taking risks and doing innovative work, we have to start asking questions. Paying the bills won’t earn your business a legacy.
5. I have to plan it out properly first.
At our 99% Conference this past April, author and entrepreneur Frans Johansson argued that humans are very bad at predicting which ideas are going to be a success. Thus, nearly every major breakthrough innovation has been preceded by a string of failed or misguided executions. The moral of the story? Spend more time doing, and less time planning.
6. I’m afraid of failure.
If we really push ourselves, we will fail more than we succeed. But that’s how we gain experience, how we learn, and how we grow. The greater failure is to never risk failure at all. As Henry Ford put it, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”
7. The idea isn't polished enough yet.
Charles Darwin spent 20 years developing his theory of natural selection, and planned to eventually publish his research in a multi-volume tome. But in 1858, he received a letter from the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace essentially summarizing the theory he’d been cultivating over decades. Darwin scrapped his plans for a tome and quickly published his now-famous abstract, On the Origin of Species. Without Wallace nipping at his heels, though, how long might Darwin have gone on perfecting his world-changing theory? Sometimes it’s best to launch a project before it’s “perfect.”
8. I need to do market research.
If you think about real, game-changing inventions and discoveries – the electric lightbulb, the double helix of DNA, the airplane – almost none of them had the support of the masses in the early days. Being a visionary means being able to see what other people can’t even imagine. That’s why companies like Apple don’t do market research.
9. I can't overcome the inertia.
Getting started can be hard. Once you’re sitting still, once you’re in your comfort zone, the easiest thing to do is just stay there. As serial entrepreneur Andy Swan has written, one of the most common mistakes when we’re just beginning a project is to “set lofty goals from a resting start.” With images of fame and success dancing in our heads, we set the bar too high, fail to make the grade, and quit because we’re discouraged. Instead, build momentum by starting with small, achievable goals, and work from there.
10. I’m not inspired.
Inspiration comes from action, not the other way around. Our friends at Red Lemon Club shared this insightful tidbit from leadership guru John C. Maxwell: “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”
What Do You Think?
What are the most common excuses you hear in your business? What’s holding you back from making ideas happen?
This post is based on research by the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think tank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.