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What if it succeeds? That’s the question

Whenever new ideas are mentioned, the possibility that it might amount to failure automatically starts to take root in the back of most listeners’ minds.

It’s almost inevitable. It’s unusual to have a situation where everyone likes a new concept so much and so immediately that they all flock toward it.

I can envision that happening if a fire hydrant somehow burst in crowded, sweltering summer conditions on a street corner or at a large public event. I think everyone, no matter how old or how dressed up, would be at least halfway tempted.

Otherwise skepticism is usually part of immediate first impressions. A certain amount of skepticism goes hand in hand with critical thinking.

We can’t be sure. There’s no way of knowing if a piece of candy found by the curb is really a good thing to eat. If it’s in a wrapper that appears never to have been opened, that’s a good sign. Maybe not enough though. A parade that happened earlier in the day is a reason to have an extra measure of confidence.

The same kind of process unfolds with anything that’s not part of business as usual. There has to be a good enough rationale to think seriously about something that’s “different.”

That’s often a loaded word, one that has almost as much flexibility as a rubber band. All it means is that yes something’s an idea and basically there’s nothing wrong with having an idea. That’s about as far as it goes. It’s not anything close to an enthusiastic endorsement.

Now we’re moving into Phase Two of the idea process. The fun part’s over, and the harder task of evaluation begins.

Some of the biggest hurdles are what’s known as “killer phrases.”Anyone who’s talked to an audience about brainstorming (idea generating) knows that it’s possible to simultaneously entertain and make a point when describing them.

Several of my favorites include “we’ve tried that before,” “do you realize how much extra work that would create,” and “that’s not part of our job.” All three instantly predict failure. They’re based on looking strictly at keeping things simple, taking practical approaches instead of ones that venture outside the box.

It’s like if a household fixture made out of flimsy plastic has a pop-together attachment that breaks, making the whole product useless.

The first reaction is to throw it in the garbage and then run a special errand to the store to buy the exact same item with the hope that the same unreliable attachment will hold together well into the future.

There’s another possibility. Some people might ask themselves if there’s a cheaper and better way to handle it.

The syndicated Hints From Heloise columns gained fame as a source of tidbits that originated with that kind of creative starting point. Readers have been known to save copies of those kinds of tips.

Sometimes it’s possible to rely just on personal intuition, just on a belief that something might get resolved with the right strategy for applying duct tape or with a good non-abrasive cleanser.

What if it fails? There’s always plain old Plan B. What if it succeeds? It sets a new standard for effectiveness, creativity and simplicity.

If you look through almost any edition of a newspaper, either a printed one or an online version, you’ll come across at least one newfangled idea intended as a path toward all those things. Try it out if you have some recent editions still on hand at home.

What’s suggested might seem outlandish. It might be tempting to dive head first into skepticism, to even use at least one of the most famous killer phrases.

Then again that “different” notion might be worth exploring. The worst possible thing that could happen in the event of failure might actually be microscopic compared to the best possible outcome if the notion becomes an inspiration.

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