Everyone loves a good superhero movie.
The general public are at the mercy of a terrible villain, death is imminent for the innocent from the threat of psychopaths, aliens or Godzilla until all of a sudden, the hero manages to swoop in and save the day.
It’s satisfying to watch a superhero miraculously save the world from the jaws of death. As humans, we have an inherent bias for the excitement, the bangs, the crashes and everything big and extraordinary. These are what manage to capture our attention and best help us to empathise and dream…
The allure of big ideas
Just as we are pulled towards all things big and exciting at the movies, we are pulled towards the same these things every single day of our lives.
Whether it be the prospect of winning the lottery, the strong emotions of a raging war on the news or a slumdog millionaire-type story, we are all suckers for the zero to hero headlines.
And it’s not just physically big things that we are pulled towards, but big ideas too. The romanticism involved with discovering the next (or current) Bitcoin and becoming rich overnight, the one million pound idea that we thought up in the shower or going on the X Factor and finally achieving that fame that we deserve.
Just as the health industry is fixed on shortcuts to abs and the finance industry on ‘get rich quick’ schemes, our overriding culture is hooked on the allure of big ideas and the neglect of small ones. We often become obsessed with fixing our country or the world before we bother to look at our own lives and where best to inject some great ideas there. We often want to discover the ‘next big thing’ rather than work on the ten small ideas we can start with right now.
Thinking about big ideas is a really convenient way to procrastinate on taking action right now.
The power of small ideas
Big ideas certainly have their place. It is big ideas that end up changing the world for the better. Revolutionary inventions like the printing press, steam engine and iPhone completely changed how we humans go about our business, and a case can be made for each of them that they have made us much better off.
However, it is extremely rare that big ideas simply appear out of the ether and suddenly manifest themselves into the world. In fact, I would argue that it never happens at all.
The camera, the camcorder, the GPS, the microphone and the telephone all existed before the iPhone. It was these series of smaller ideas combined that became something big (the camera, camcorder etc can be traced back to even smaller ideas before them).
Amazingly enough, boiling water wasn’t a new concept to anyone when the steam engine was invented. However, a series of smaller ideas about cylinders, pistons and boilers led to another revolutionary invention that seemingly came from nowhere.
Small ideas and subsequent action on them is what drives most of progress. Whether that be human progress or your own daily progress.
Small ideas are of a compounding nature and are easily testable. One small idea that works well can lead to another small idea which eventually leads to something much bigger.
Small ideas are a bit like Lego, where one block on its own doesn’t mean much but it always starts with one block, one small idea before you can start dreaming bigger.
It’s likely that you already have a few small ideas lined up for yourself in your head. Maybe it’s a nifty way to make money in your spare time, maybe it’s a habit that you know you can change one day at a time, maybe it’s a job you can apply for which will get you closer to where you want to be.
Whatever your endeavours, don’t be fooled by the romanticism and fairytale of that ‘one big idea’. It will never come. Instead, start finding one small idea that you can act on today and see where it takes you tomorrow.