Last night at the bar, everyone just laughed.
“That’ll never work, Morty,” they said. “Never in a million years!”
And you sighed. Maybe they’re right. Maybe nobody in the world is looking for a fast, easy way to make scrambled eggs in their cars, and maybe the cereal additive market doesn’t need a middleman. Maybe you’re barking up the crazy tree.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Look. I’m not suggesting you pour your life savings into a Star Trek-themed tiki bar called Picard & Bacardi. But I am suggesting that there’s a fine line between “crazy” and “genius” that’s sometimes a little hard to see. Not with the tiki bar, though.
The fact is that our world is full of stupid problems nobody’s been able to solve, and businesses thrive on filling these gaps. Let’s talk about something like Uber.
On its face, Uber hits some seriously weird buttons. We spent our whole lives hearing “never get into cars with strangers” and “never meet people from the internet,” and now we are literally using the internet to summon strangers so we can get into their cars. That, Morty, is a crazy idea that will never work. Except it totally works. Why is that?
Because people need to get places, and in lots of places that aren’t New York City, street hails aren’t even possible and it’s cumbersome to call a car service. Uber saw in location-tracking smartphones an opportunity to bring people a really basic service in a mega-convenient new way, and at a much lower cost. Technology provided the vector – but it took a crazy idea to make it happen.
And the fact is that so many of the businesses we rely on on a daily basis started out as crazy ideas. Think about Netflix. The mail-order DVD rental thing was a pretty straightforward application of existing technologies – ecommerce and, well, the United States Postal Service – but when it decided to start streaming massive chunks of its catalog on demand, well, that must have gone over pretty badly at that first board meeting.
“Are you insane? The server costs alone. And the rights situation. And most people don’t have a fast enough connection to make it anything other than a choppy mess. And God knows that’s gonna cut into our mail order business. Let’s stick with what works and not venture off into Crazytown USA.”
Our daily lives are peppered with insanities that made it because they filled a need and did it well. McDonald’s; instant hamburgers? FedEx; overnight delivery via a friggin’ airplane? Twitter; online chatting 140 characters at a time? Amazon; you want to sell every book in the world? These are things that, when you say them precisely the wrong way, sound like idiocy – but which, in the hands of people who believe in them, turned the entire planet on its ear.
In other words, pally, your crazy idea just might work.
I’m not promising you’ll be the next Amazon. I’m not even promising you’ll be the next corner bodega. But there’s a lot to be said for seizing the strangest opportunities and turning them into something people love and rely on. Whether they’re big and fancy like Netflix or small and procedural, the right crazy idea in the right hands can transform everything – or at least let you build something lasting.
Or at least something people will remember.
Now, the thing is that every one of these ventures combined insanity with practical know-how and dedication to doing a good job the right way. It’s not enough to have a really fantastic, crazy idea. Good generals talk strategy; great generals talk logistics. The power behind crazy plans like FedEx, McDonalds, and Amazon is the procedural strength to make sure everything goes off without a hitch the vast majority of the time. Nobody would buy from Amazon if they routinely sent the wrong product, no matter how vast their stock, and if FedEx couldn’t deliver on its delivery promises, well, all those planes and all that infrastructure would sit their unused.
So yes. Your crazy idea might work. Just make sure you bring the right players onto your team first, with a dedication to excellence, efficiency, and quality, and you’ll be well on your way.
To something, anyway.