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Innovation and Product Development

Your Idea Factory – Quality Innovation from Quantity

Confident woman with arms crossed in front of a blackboard showing a workflow ending in the rewards of quality innovation ideas.

Quality innovation is not for the weak at heart! Innovation myths may have you thinking it is for the lucky or the extremely talented – that’s not true. Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Thomas Edison quipped, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

In this blog post, I want to focus on a different quote with the same intent. Linus Pauling was an American scientist who was awarded a Nobel Prize not just once, but twice! You might not recognize his name, but New Scientist called him one of the 20 greatest scientists of all time. He once shared, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” Pauling’s career overlapped those of Picasso and Edison and included the same concept that working hard generates quality innovation.

Let me walk you through how steady effort (work) creates a lot of possibilities (quantity) and then how you can churn out great ideas (quality innovation) through your idea factory (innovation system).

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away. – Linus Pauling

Working for Innovation Quantity

In my experience, the level of innovation correlates to the effort put in. There’s a reason for this. Lots of people (your competitors) are willing to put in a little bit of work. Far fewer are willing to put in significant work – most people won’t.

Furthermore, what I’ve found to be true is that your first ideas are seldom the ground-breaking ones. Your first ideas are the easy connections. The first-round ideas are often the same solutions everyone else can easily produce. Your goal is to connect the dots that others have not.

Significant innovative solutions come from stress testing the ideas and iterating. Not once. Not twice. But continually. Have a hundred ideas and throw away the bad ones. Take the best ideas and try to poke holes in them until you can evolve them to be strong.

When Quantity Goes Wrong

I wrote another blog post on lessons learned while managing corporate innovation. Lessons #1 and #2 explain what can go wrong when you have a large quantity of ideas being generated by a team. Either people toss out ideas they don’t intend to pursue themselves (they just want credit), or others won’t search if someone else has already shared the same or similar idea (redundancy).

You don’t want the quantity of ideas to become another barrier. You’ll be swimming in a sea of half-baked ideas with no connection between related concepts. You’ll drown. It needs to be managed in order to be successful.

In this blog post, I won’t focus on the management of team innovation – that’s what my lessons learned post was about – so instead, I’ll discuss what Linus Pauling was referring to when he said you should have lots of ideas.

Your Idea Factory

The benefit of having lots of ideas yourself, rather than as a team, is that your train of thought inherently has some relation from one concept to the next. One idea begets the next, and then you can mix-and-match and quickly iterate without considering outside opinions.

This form of “lots of ideas” is fantastic because you can move fast and throw away bad ideas without worrying about what others will think of the concept. You can have really bad ideas that are simply not feasible, but then those unrealistic thoughts can spur others that will work.

Free yourself to experiment. Suspend reality without fear of failure. You’ll surprise yourself with the ideas you generate! Have a bunch of these ideas, then throw away the bad ones. It takes work but you can then find the signal among the noise.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. – Frederick Douglass

Quality Innovation

The quality of an innovative idea is measured against what else is out there (competition). The quality is perceived differently when it first comes out versus years later when your competition has emulated or evolved in response. It isn’t just an initial effort, but an ongoing one.

There are stories from Apple, Google, Facebook, Tesla, and many more about their crunch times, trying to separate themselves from the competition. Even Thomas Edison talked about working through thousands of iterations to land on one good one.

And for good reason…consider the story of Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray racing to the patent office, only for Bell to file mere hours earlier, locking his place in history as the inventor of the telephone. Quality innovation is valuable, there is urgency, and you want to iterate through ideas as quickly as possible.


Quality innovation is a rarity, but it is attainable for anyone. If you view it like winning the lottery, then you can appreciate how buying more tickets (generating more ideas) gives you an advantage in finding the one that wins.

So, give it a try! If you feel blocked, I have suggestions on getting unstuck. They say that practice makes perfect, so hop in and practice generating ideas!


If you are looking for a quality innovation partner, reach out to your Perficient account manager or use our contact form to begin a conversation.

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Brandon Luhring

Brandon is a consumer experience engagement manager at Perficient. His career has included running digital and marketing projects both in-house and as a consultant. He enjoys topics around creativity, innovation, design, technology, and leadership.

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