The power of dopey ideas

The power of dopey ideas

Steve used to say to me, and he used to say this a lot. Hey Jony, here’s a dopey idea. And sometimes they were. Really dopey. Sometimes they were truly dreadful. But sometimes they took the air from the room. And they left us both completely silent. Bold, crazy, magnificent ideas. Or quiet, simple ones. Which in their subtlety, their detail, they were utterly profound.

Jony Ive—Steve Jobs memorial service—Apple Campus—2011

One of the secrets of Apple’s success comes in this wonderful quote from Jony Ive. The part he didn’t mention—partly because it wasn’t relevant to the story—is that sometimes the magnificent ideas came out of the dopey ideas.

All of us are capable of bold, crazy, or magnificent ideas, but if we’re not allowed the freedom to have dopey ideas and voice them, some of these potential ideas may never come to fruition.

The more years I worked at Apple, the more timid I felt people had become to bring up ideas that they had. I finally figured out that it was likely due to the average tenure of an employee dropping dramatically as hiring went increased exponentially.

Someone that has been at Apple for 10 years is certainly very secure in voicing ideas, whereas someone that has only been there less than 2 years is understandably more reticent.

So, I don’t think Apple’s culture of being open to dopey ideas has changed, but the average employee is less likely to bring them up. I think this is probably true of any company that has experienced insane growth.

But back to dopey ideas.

Imagine being in a meeting with several people that each have dopey ideas. If no one says anything, nothing happens. But if one brings theirs up, it could either be combined with another dopey idea or tacked on to an existing good idea.

Perhaps the dopey idea sits on the back burner and simmers for years and then suddenly it becomes a brilliant idea because of the market or products changing.

If you work for Apple or any other company, be sure to encourage people to have dopey ideas and voice them.

Steve would want you to.