How many times have you had the following situation: You come up with a brilliant idea. The perfect solution for the problem you’re struggling with. You ever wonder how no one else has done it yet. You call a meeting. With a smile on your lips, you tell your colleagues the joyful news. They start to smile too. And after a while, they tell you: we’ve been through this before. We came up with this idea a few years ago. We tried it before, and it didn’t work out. Let me know if you have any new ideas. The whole plan went into the garbage can. Do you want to give up? Not this time. It may turn out that your idea is not crossed out at all.

What went wrong?

First, you have to find out why the idea didn’t work out last time. Such knowledge will allow you to adopt an appropriate action plan. There may be several reasons why the concept failed:

The idea didn’t work – you don’t know why customers didn’t want to use the proposed solution. The product may have been too difficult to handle. Was the barrier its price? The market may not have been ready for such innovations either. Such situations, contrary to appearances, happen quite often. Analyze what your company had to offer and see what was wrong.

Technological barrier – the idea was exciting, but it turned out that the company could not realize it. It could need specialist knowledge or the use of expensive technology. It could also turn out that none of the existing solutions meet the assumed conditions. But, some time has passed since then. The cost of technology is most likely much lower. There are also alternative solutions.

Resources – the project was too expensive to put in place, required too much time or other vital resources. Check if you can simplify it somehow and thus guarantee less use of resources. Also, examine the current financial situation of the company. It is better than when the idea came up for the first time, and you can spend some funds on it.

Political barriers and other factors – someone could dislike and kill the project. Or it doesn’t suit with strategy. Or there was more important work at that time.

The situation does not have to be as simple as you thought. It would be most difficult to convince others to try again if the project ended with a failure. The easiest way is if it turns out that its realization will be much simpler and cheaper than before. Find out what happened and learn about all the factors that influenced the failure. Talk to the people who made the decisions and try to know their perspective. You will be able to get to the doubts they had. All this will allow you to develop a better idea.

New ideas come from old ideas

Surprise? No. That’s the truth. The vast majority of new ideas have their roots in something that already works. The art is to create other combinations based on existing knowledge. Innovation is not about doing new things. It is doing things in a new way. Ideas, problems, needs, solutions, possibilities. All them you can combine in any way you want.

Now try to think about something you feel is very useful. Will it be a Google search engine? Or will it be an iPad? Think about what if a foundation of those ideas. Hasn’t something like that happened before? Searching for information was known before computers and the internet. It was enough to spend some time in a library. A tablet is nothing but a computer without a keyboard. You can read books, watch movies, play games, and surf the net on it. Should you reprimand the authors of the solutions as mentioned above for using proven ideas? Not. They did it in a new way and created innovative solutions. You can take an example from them and try your combinations.

How to turn a mistaken idea into a business?

Now that you know what went wrong and how to use proven solutions, you can get to work. Improve your idea. Remember that reality has changed, and you need to adapt it to the new environment. Here are some methods that will help you to do that:

Look for something that already works – use the most popular method to create innovations and do something new based on a proven solution. Look for inspiration beyond what you do. Try to think about where else you can come across a similar problem, and it is solved. Check if your idea will not take a completely different meaning when you connect something that works with it.

Find a need – think about what kind of problem bothers all the people you want to make happy. Do they want to do something faster, easier, cheaper? Meet their need. They have been targeted earlier or not identified?

Think outside the box – you’ll come up with a solution that goes beyond the box. Henry Ford said: “If at the beginning of my career as an entrepreneur, I asked my clients what they wanted, they would all agree: we want faster horses. So I didn’t ask them”. Neither do you have to do it when the problem is known? Focus on the new solution. Especially when you can’t squeeze anything else out of the existing ones.

Turn disadvantages into advantages – think about the most significant problems of an untested idea. You can turn them into something useful. A computer without a mouse and keyboard? How to operate it? Equip it with a touch screen, and the disadvantage turns into an advantage.

Less is more – check if what you want to give the world is easy to do. If not, you have to limit everything to an absolute minimum. If something is simple, no one will have a problem using it. Cut half of the options and half of what is left. And base on that. It will turn out that you can do without most of these features.

Forget about what you know – if nothing else works, start from the beginning. Discuss the problem with the first factors and look at it again. Invite people who do not know about the previous concept and ask them for their opinions on it. This way, you will create a new idea step by step.


The words that something was already there and didn’t work out do not mean that the idea is dead. You don’t have to stop. Know the reasons that contributed to the failure. Check the current possibilities. If you still can’t afford to implement the idea, wait a little longer. Think about the concept and see what you can do better. Don’t be afraid to use proven solutions. Keep your head open in different directions. Go beyond the scheme and convince others that it is worth doing it. Use the knowledge you have already gained and look for new possibilities. Life often gives you a second chance. So what is the obstacle to provide it with old ideas?

Author: Wojciech DrewczyƄski

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