How Entrepreneurs Can Escape Idea Volcano Deaths

Generating ideas can be your greatest strength. It can also be your Achilles Heel.

Have you created many business ideas, bought web domains, maybe sketched logos, only to give up on those ideas and try something else?

Do ideas seem to erupt in your mind, especially when there’s real work to be done?

I call this the “Idea Volcano” phenomenon, and it can compound exponentially when two or more ideators are in the same room.

Portfolios work is for VCs, not for founders

Thinking that you need more ideas in order to improve your odds that one of them works is faulty thinking.

An idea is not a business.

Focused, tenacious work over the course of months or years builds businesses. An entrepreneur approaching his own businesses like a venture capitalist investing in her portfolio of companies will simply lead to a portfolio of unproven ideas, which is a far cry from a portfolio of successful businesses.

More ideas does not mean automatically better ideas

The core insight of the Lean Startup revolution has been that businesses are rarely if ever successful without many pivots, or feedback loops, along the way.

The “idea” of a business is actually a complex, finely-crafted business model that requires immense perseverance, experimentation, and continued learning to manifest.

The initial core insight or idea is never as “good” as the final model that describes a robust, profitable business. It can’t be.

Why your idea generation muscle is a comfortable distraction

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Creating ideas is fun, you’re good at it, and it allows you to feel that brief sense of momentum and hope. But it also avoids all the hard, expensive, and murky work of disproving hypotheses, taking risks, and building something valuable.

How to stop chasing squirrels and build something worthwhile

  1. Dedicate the vast majority of your time to implementing or testing ideas instead of simply jumping from one idea to another.
  2. Pick one idea, one niche, or one effort and focus for a specific period of time–six months at minimum.
  3. Don’t say “no” when new ideas arise, simply say, “not yet,” and create a backlog or roadmap. Fighting your creativity will exhaust you–methodically sequencing your venture ideas can save you from yourself.
  4. Don’t give up prematurely. At month 3, or repetition 25, or disappointing customer interview after interview, your shiny object syndrome will be rearing its head violently. Set goals ahead of time for how to approach troughs of enthusiasm. For example, tell yourself that you’ll try 25 keywords and spend a minimum of $1,000 and 4 weeks testing some new advertising idea before giving up completely.

You can do it

Although generating and sharing ideas can be a risk-free rush, it’s also an accomplishment-free diversion.

Imagine the pride you can feel standing on top of real-world accomplishments and successful ventures, instead of the what-could-have-been questions that swirl around a worthless list of unrealized ideas.

With a little discipline and realistic prevention, you can keep your ideas from distracting you and build something worthwhile.


If you’re serious about turning an idea into a real-life business, see how an experienced business coach can help:

Published by Patrick

I provide coaching to entrepreneurial leaders so they can build their businesses successfully and experience unrivaled personal growth.

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