what if innovation blog 5 reasons to give old ideas a second chance

5 Reasons To Give Old Ideas A Second Chance

By Dan Sakofs
Most good ideas fail. Those in the business of investing in great ideas, Venture Capitalists (VC's), understand this better than anyone

Those in the business of investing in great ideas, Venture Capitalists (VC’s), understand this better than anyone. On average, VC’s expect ~75% of the startups they invest in to fail or break-even. It’s not just the cost of doing business — failure is crucial to finding truly game-changing ideas.

But in the corporate world that standard is a bit different. Despite the best intentions of many organizations to encourage innovative behavior, all too often we see ‘intrapreneurs’ being measured on their ability to deliver innovation without downside.

This pressure to produce risk-free ROI pushes many innovation teams towards more conservative concepts, where bold, disruptive and game-changing ideas are often prematurely killed.

But what if one of those game-changing ideas collecting dust on your desk wasn’t as risky as you once thought? What if the conditions were now right to pursue it? With time and a change in climate, we believe old ideas can mean big opportunity.

“But how should I know which ideas are worth reviving?”

First take a step back and think about the reasons why your idea didn’t make it. Was the market perceived to not be big enough? Did your idea push your business into unfamiliar territory? Were you strapped for resources?

Or, as is often the case, did leadership fail to see the big picture potential? One of my favorite examples of this comes from a blog post written by the AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky where he shares investor rejection emails from the early days of the business.

These smart investors passed on a $25B+ company because they didn’t see the idea’s potential.

We believe that it’s never too late to reignite disruptive ideas that didn’t make it the first time around. With the right love, attention and timing, many of your old ideas could become fertile grounds for sustaining and growing your innovation pipeline.

Here are ?What If’s! top 5 reasons for giving past ideas another shot:


  1. The idea was ahead of it’s time
    Some great ideas come just before the appropriate set of technological or cultural conditions they require to enable their success. In the AirBnB example, many VC investors did not see the growing acceptance of the sharing economy, which has been a major enabler for AirBnB’s overall success.
  2. Company politics got in the way
    Many ideas that upset the status quo or threaten the core business may be stopped in their tracks for no good reason. If you believe you were onto something truly game-changing then you probably were, and perhaps it’s worth a revisit with a new, creative business case to get it over the hump and sell it into key stakeholders.
  3. A top-level management change has recently occurred
    Whenever key leaders in the organization are replaced there is the potential to reignite big, bold ideas that were perhaps unfairly killed for political reasons. New leaders are always looking to make their mark on the business, and perhaps your idea could become part of their campaign for doing so.
  4. Leadership perceived the idea as being too small
    Many ideas are killed just because the perceived addressable market size is too small. If success typically means having a multi-billion dollar product in the first few years, then chances are many of your disruptive ideas have been passed over simply because the estimated near-term upside was too small.
  5. You are still passionate about the idea & now have more resources at your disposal
    Making ideas happen takes passion, time and effort. Perhaps your idea was great, but you just didn’t have the time or the resources to execute. That’s ok, and a reality of the corporate world. Too often innovation is cast aside to manage day-to-day responsibilities, but if you now have access to a new set of resources it might be the perfect time to revitalize your old idea.

While these are only a handful of the potential scenarios that might lead you to revisit former innovation concepts, we believe revitalizing these old ideas could represent significant upside and revenue potential.

If you think you’re sitting on an idea that should be given a second chance, we’d love to hear your story.

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