Posted in: careers, web20

Are Smart People Wasting Time on Bad Ideas?

About 2-3 times per year I’ll happen upon a conversation thread that makes me uncomfortable. If I hear it from one person whose opinion I respect, I tend to file it away. If I hear it from two people whose opinion I respect, I make note of it. If I hear it from 3 people or more than I know it’s starting to seep into the collective consciousness of the folks I know. In the last month I’ve stumbled on just such a thread. The nature of this thread is whether smart people (where smart = business smarts) are wasting their time and talent on bad ideas. What’s a bad idea? In this context, a “bad idea” is a company, business, or commercial endeavor that has no real chance at success and where the best case outcome is not really that interesting.

Lately, I have heard this theme / concern expressed by a few people who I know. Among my friends, there is a growing concern that a lot of smart, talented people are spending their time working on ideas that just aren’t good. This is particularly (or perhaps exclusively) true of smart people I know working on consumer internet companies.

I’m of the mind that people choose ideas or business ideas for a variety of reasons, with ultimate commercial success being but one of them. Sometimes it’s about a bigger title, a bigger part of the financial action, being part of the process of creating something new, or simply to escape an otherwise boring job. But I have to say that I do see some ray of truth in this assertion that many smart people are working on ideas that are not ultimately going to be big. I think this has more to do with the fact that many smart, young people I know are restless and don’t see anything established that’s interesting and hence feel the need to strike out and do things that are riskier.

What do you think? Is it fair to assert that smart people are wasting their time these days? What can you add to the conversation?