There are, as I see it, seven critical, mental, stages one has to pass through in order to launch an idea. These points are like chasms because your idea can suddenly fall into one of them – and very rarely resurge.
The first is a chasm that comes up right after you have gotten excited about an idea. Maybe you thought of it together with your friends at a bar one night, or maybe you had a sudden insight midway through a dreary getting-to-work morning shower. But, literally, less than a day later – maybe even just a few hours later, the idea is forgotten or laid to rest. Either way it soon falls into oblivion, sometimes for no good reason at all.
Now if you leap over this first chasm, let’s call it the Recall-chasm because sometimes you can’t even recall the idea you had, another stage fast approaches. This one is more reminiscent of an eddy in a river than a chasm. Here is what happens: the early excitement, in fact, does not go away. You start telling other people about the idea – you may be thinking about it before going to sleep at night– start sketching it out and explore options. This stage is characterized by google searches and brief discussions with others about the merit of the idea. Sometimes you stop talking about it, but months later return to the idea again. The key point here is that during this phase you have not, in any meaningful way, done anything about it. It’s just all talk. You swirl around like an eddy in a stream sometimes seemingly moving forward, sometimes backward, but never onto the next stage (or pool if you’re a fly fisher). And this talk can go for years because it is extremely easy to just talk about it. Tons of ideas end up in the idea-eddy and never, ever get out if it. At some point the eddy just dies out.
I was in such an idea-eddy was where when I walked out of Amabile’s office. Lots of thinking and talk, but no real trade-offs yet. But that was about to change.