When we want to validate our ideas the most obvious way is to ask someone else what they think of the idea.
“Is this a good idea or not?”
But thinking and feeling are two distinctive things, and each represents a different interpretation of what we experience.
Love, for example, is an often illogical or irrational feeling. Then it’s difficult to feel anything about an Excel spreadsheet (unless you’re a math nerd). Yet each of these things serves a distinct purpose and provides us with meaningful experiences or information. Similarly: ideas can be illogical or feeling-less. Creative ideas are usually fall into the former category: illogical, especially when first encountered.
When we ask someone what they think about our ideas, we’re asking them to logically look at the concept and tell us whether or not they can comprehend it. But the problem with many creative ideas—those which are truly novel and valuable—is they’re not the type of thing you can immediately, logically, wrap your head around. They’re often confusing, daunting, or seemingly crazy at first. History has given us ample examples of thinkers who were “ahead of their time.”
Imagine trying to evaluate the concept of an elevator, or tablet computer, or car, from a person from the 1800s. They wouldn’t have any basis from which to understand what you’re even talking about, let alone critique the idea well. Similarly, you’d be hard-pressed to get someone’s interpretation of Moby Dick if they had never read anything like it before, or of Jackson Pollock if they had never seen the style (and knew nothing of the artist).
When asking someone else what they think of our idea, we may be asking them to respond to what they don’t understand. How could they? If it was obvious, they would have thought of the idea.
Instead, we should seek to not validate our ideas by asking “What do you think about this?” or “Do you think this is a good idea?” Rather, we should ask how the idea makes someone feel.
Feelings can often help us better understand where gaps in our ideas might be, or what cognitive bridges we’ll need to build when sharing our ideas. Feelings are a far better guiding light when it comes to building new concepts than more logical thought processes. If the person we’re interacting with feels confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated by the idea, that’s a good sign that we need to work to simplify the concept, or make it easier to relate to another, existing, idea. If the feedback we get is that the idea excites the other person, or makes them feel optimistic, or hopeful, or another positive feeling, that’s a good indicator we may be onto something worth pursuing further.
The next time you want to validate whether or not your creative idea is worthwhile: ask your audience how the idea makes them feel, not whether they think it’s good or bad.
Doing so will get you closer to the feedback you need to evolve the idea, not merely scrap it or call it a success.