“Our competitors don’t stand a chance,” goes through your head as you step out of the shower. Hey, aren’t all your best ideas conceived between shampoo and conditioner?

Write it down. Draw out a cost/benefit analysis (SMART). Share it with others. Edit, improve. It doesn’t even matter what your idea was. Remember, “a dream without a plan is just a wish.” – Katherine Paterson

As a technologist and futurist (I look to new technologies and assess how our society will evolve in coming years), I view ideas as the root of our growth. So don’t stop dreaming! Just ensure it makes sense in today’s world.

Take, for example, hydrogen fuel-cell cars. If you’re not familiar with the concept, that’s ok. They are really new. I mean, only a few exist…new. Given the right technology improvements, policy decisions, cost-scaling, and marketing, it can be the holy grail of clean transportation. Your tailpipe would emit water. That’s it. And the compressed hydrogen the vehicle uses could be made using renewable energy.

Toyota showed us a glimpse of that possible future with the Mirai, a concept vehicle running on compressed hydrogen with range in the hundreds of miles. Refueling can be done in a few minutes at a compatible hydrogen station, and you’re on your way.

So what’s stopping us from switching to this obviously better fuel source? No harmful emissions, no oil, clean energy made here…let’s do it! Not so fast. Barring a few stations in California (and others scattered around the country) there’s nowhere to refuel the vehicle. Our current fueling infrastructure was built over the course of a century and would take years (not to mention billions of dollars) to match with hydrogen. Impossible to overcome? No, just something essential to consider.

Back to your shower idea. Turns out, it is industry-changing: your staff, focus groups, even sampled members agree. Using the hydrogen vehicle example, here are some questions you need to ask:

  • Is it ahead of its time or your competition?
  • Can it run the risk of being a non-starter?
  • Does it cost you time and money with little short and unpredictable long-term benefits?
  • Are you willing to build out the figurative fueling infrastructure?

A few months ago, I suggested having an R&D budget for your institution. Depending on the answers to those questions, your idea may be best passed along to this division. That way, when you are ready to make it happen, the hard work of development is already done. And you can still crush your competition!

tl;dr (Summary) – It’s great to be ahead of your competition and have the “early mover” advantage, but there is also a danger in pursuing a strategy/solution that doesn’t make it. Must have a strategy for today and tomorrow, with how you plan to get from A (the way it’s done now) to B (your super-duper amazing solution).

Aside: Yes, it’s a click-bait image.  But it’s a puppy, in a bath!