How to Identify Ideas That’ll Catch Fire

Why are some ideas some damn irresistible, and others just don’t last longer than the napkins they’re written on?

It’s a tough question. And as I look to promote and amplify some of my ideas, it’s more crucial than ever. I can probably only promote a few ideas in a year – or even in 5 years – so it’s important to choose wisely.

As I look for ideas that stick around, I’ve noticed a few themes :

  • Controversy: controversial ideas fly in the face of the status quo and draw a strong emotional reaction. A controversial idea, like Blair Enns’ Win Without Pitching, often challenge a foundational idea (like “you have to pitch to get a new client”).

  • Sea change: a sea change is large current that’s underlying a bigger, coming cultural or business change. Sea changes imply that we’re behind the curve until we accept and adapt (think of Salesforce’s “No Software” campaign).

  • Fresh perspective: a fresh perspective is a new way of looking at an idea that’s been around for a while. Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing work builds on Alan Weiss’s work, but applied to freelancers. Fresh perspectives often marry two ideas that hadn’t been paired before.

Notice that there is some overlap between the types of ideas that are truly promotion-worthy. In all three categories, there’s a strong suggestion that “you’re doing it wrong” or “there’s a much better way.”

For more on the subject of why some ideas stick and others don’t, I highly recommend the brilliant book Made to Stick by The Heath Brothers.