How to Identify a Bad Idea

At a recent staff meeting, our Open Network team had the chance to hear Bobby Gruenewald share his thoughts about our team, technology, and what God has on his heart for 2019. Pastor Bobby is one of three leaders who serve alongside Pastor Craig Groeschel on our Directional Leadership Team, and he oversees communication, creative media, construction, and digital efforts here at Life.Church. He’s a key force behind the YouVersion Bible App, the Church Online Platform, Bible Lens, Open Digerati, and more—when we think of technology impacting the global Church, we think of Bobby.

In our team time, Bobby shared two things that we wanted to pass along to you—one is inspirational and the other more tactical.

First, Bobby talked about the freedom we have through Christ to be creative. The freedom we have to try things and, even if they fail, to try again. If you try something and fail, and that failure leaves you debilitated, your identity is probably misaligned.

Instead, recognize that good ideas come from God and that He’ll always give you more of them. This realization makes you stop looking to yourself, stops the anxiety that the ideas will dry up or flop, and recenters your dependence on God.

Realizing that our ideas come from God also helps us walk away from an idea that isn’t working. If an idea is too precious to us, too wrapped up in our own genius or worth, we’ll hang on to it far too long. Bad ideas will peter out when they’re put to the test, and our job is to trust the Holy Spirit to bring us new, fresh ideas all the time.

How to Identify a Bad Idea

Bobby walked us through his process for weeding out bad ideas. First, when you have an idea, examine it yourself with intense scrutiny. Find a way to develop a self-filtering process that helps you look for reasons the idea wouldn’t work.

If the idea still seems foggy to you or doesn’t fully solve the problem you’re trying to solve, it’s probably a bad idea.

When you’ve thought it through, and it still feels good, take it to trusted people for an “intelligent debate.” Ask friends or leaders you respect to try to poke holes in the idea. Here, the goal isn’t to defend the idea or destroy it but to truly understand it. Welcome the other person’s questions and perspective with respect, not defensiveness—they’re likely to think of something you haven’t thought of.

If the idea was easily dismantled in the debate, it’s probably a bad idea.

Finally, weigh the risks and identify unknown factors. Bobby typically considers three categories of risk: technology, market, and business. Run your idea through these three filters:

  • Technical: Can it be built?
  • Market: If we can build it would people actually want to use it?
  • Business: What’s the economic (or spiritual) sustainability risk to keep this idea going?

If you determine there is a risk in all three categories, it’s probably a bad idea.

Risk in two of the three categories? Keep exploring it. Risk in just one category is a clear green light to try it. And if there’s no risk in any category, it usually means someone else is already doing it—or it doesn’t need to be done.

Remember, we were created in God’s image, and that image includes His infinite creativity. So, never doubt your ability to dream new dreams and think up new projects—and don’t despair when it feels hard to think of the next great idea. Put your hope in God, tell Him what problem you’re trying to solve, let the Spirit work through you. Use your intellect and your relationships to determine whether an idea is worth pursuing.

Then act on it and trust God with the results.

FOMO is real, so don’t take chances.

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