You must consider the broader context before assuming that your idea will succeed.
Fairy tales and stories of heroes usually follow a familiar trajectory: the good guy wins, the bad guy loses and those who follow the right path are rewarded. These stories demonstrate our deeply held beliefs about meritocracy – that the best individual or idea will or should win. However, the belief that “goodness” wins is yet another myth of innovation.
In a business context, the myth that a great idea will always triumph is perhaps best captured in the well-known saying, “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, this phrase has led many entrepreneurs to falsely believe that a good idea will sell itself.
In reality, the quality of an idea is just one part of a complex system that determines which ideas will prevail and which will fail. For instance, when your favorite restaurant goes bust, you’re caught by surprise and can’t understand why, because in your opinion they made the best desserts. By concentrating on this one small aspect – one that affects you personally – you fail to grasp the bigger picture that there are more factors involved.
Equally important in determining whether a good idea will succeed is whether the innovation is culturally accepted. For example, even though firearms were most likely invented in China sometime around 1200, they developed much more slowly there than in Europe.
Why is that? Well, some Asian cultures believed that it was more honorable to fight with a sword than with a gun and so they were disregarded, despite their undeniable superiority.
Therefore, being the “best” technology reflects only one aspect of innovation – we must also remember to take into consideration the idea’s cultural context.
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