“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein
I think we can all agree that Albert Einstein was a pretty smart guy and came up with some great ideas and concepts, but his quote above is also great advice to all of us in business. It’s a quote that I have printed on my business card and something I embrace in creating new companies and products.
A recession is a great opportunity to start a business and go out on your own, and there is an explosion of people doing just that. A huge number of Boomers, who have been thrown out of their corporate lives, think they will now become entrepreneurs and strike out on their own. They think, “Hey, I spent 20 years in management of that corporation so I can certainly run my own little startup.”
But hold on there, newbie. To be a successful entrepreneur, you may first have to retrain your brain. If you spent time at a large company in management, accounting, finance or general data control, you’ve been living in a left-brain world with left-brain thinking.
In a standard corporate environment, we often get stuck in logical, rational left-brain “linear thinking” following the same thought paths that the industry uses and we recognize as the norm.
That’s not a necessarily a bad thing. For a big, stable company, it can be a good thing. It’s a logical, secure path that we’re comfortable with, but it does not inspire new ideas. You can’t steer a giant battle ship on impulse – and you also can’t turn one on a dime.
Right versus left is not just in politics.
A small startup is a different world that requires different thinking. In a new small business we begin to look at new and different ways to do our business. We must be creative, impulsive and move quickly to adapt to the constant changes that come with every new day. Your right brain is the creative side and must be activated and running on all cylinders so you don’t get stuck on one idea or process.
Luke Mansfield, head of innovation in the London office of branding agency Landor Associates, points out that, “If your business has only one answer, or one definition of innovation, it’s time to try something new. You will be amazed at the results.”
Embrace the absurd! Many successful inventors, innovators, marketing and business people started out with what others considered an absurd, silly, can’t-be-done idea. You know, the light bulb, wind-powered electrical generators, the list goes on throughout history.
I love kids. They are the greatest inventors. I am always delighted by kids’ boundless excitement and enthusiasm for life — and their wide imaginations. They have this uninhibited ability to think the absurd, imagine the undoable openly and without reservations.
But alas, they are then taught the linear thinking in a regimented world and join the rest of the dead heads.
We should never stop asking “What if?” and “Why not?” Be ABSURD, think crazy thoughts, have impossible ideas.
If you have or can capture that childlike absurd enthusiasm, don’t let anyone cool you off or calm you down because you, my friend, are headed toward success. Just think, if Al had not thought the absurd, someone would have come up with E=ONICBD (oh never mind, it can’t be done).
Steve Baker is a founder of successful businesses and a business advisor with a passion for every phase of business cycle from startup to exit. He’s also a public speaker and author of “Pushing Water Uphill With a Rake,” as well as an avid poor golfer. He welcomes your e-mails at and invites you to visit his eclectic blog at http://www.pushingwater.com.