I’ve been on startup teams that took five years to get the first sale. I’ve been on startup teams where our investors walked away after three months because we had no revenue. Living things give birth in all sorts of different ways. Bacteria use asexual reproduction and duplicate themselves hundreds of times every minute. Humans give birth to live young in about nine months, not including the time for romantic dinners and the Get Lucky playlist on Spotify. Elephants on the far end of the spectrum give birth after 95 weeks or about 650 days. And even though we’ve studied this for centuries and have a pretty good idea of how long it should take, it’s still never the same each time. It’s never exact, never predictable, always miraculous. According to my wife’s OB/GYN, only about 2% of all human births occur on their due date.

Going from an idea to action to a result has both a predictable outcome and an unpredictable outcome.

If you decide together with your partner that you both want to bring a life into this world, and you play your cards right, nine months later, you’ll be popping champagne corks and smoking cigars – that’s mostly just the men. The women will be recovering and unable to walk comfortably for a few weeks. But there are a lot of variables in that equation, and tragically, we also know that lots can go wrong.

On the topic of reproducing, on Monday, we talked about reproducing ourselves within an organization. Today, we need to talk about reproducing our ideas. From startups to Fortune 100 companies, we’re all in the business of selling ideas. For some, those ideas come on a bar napkin and a twinkle in the eye of a young entrepreneur. For others, they come with $100,000,000 budgets and an LOI from US Naval Intelligence. But an idea, at its core, is ubiquitous. It’s the common denominator. They both have the same amount of value at the outset.

As soon as you say them out loud to someone, everything changes. Some ideas a great. Some ideas are terrible. Some ideas are brilliant to one audience and worthless to another. Did the Snuggy need to be a thing? I say no. My wife says yes. Some ideas are given to people who have no experience starting businesses, have no idea what it takes to commercialize on those ideas, don’t know anyone who does, and have no resources to make the vision a reality. Some ideas are given to people who have the work ethic to change all of those things and go and find the right people and resources to make it a reality. Some ideas are birthed in the minds of people in the perfect place and the ideal time with the ideal amount of resources. But this is rarely the case.

I got a response from a prospective customer once that said, “We are in the middle of an 18-month technology transformation. We are not considering any other products or services until after this transformation is complete.” Seeing as I had never talked to this person, and they knew very little about our company or our products, I was a little confused. Not only did they start a “technology transformation” during a global pandemic, where the workplace as we knew it was being reinvented daily, but they wouldn’t be landing the plane for a year and a half. Admittedly, they didn’t even fully understand all the bells and whistles they were getting with the new system. So it would be another 18 months after that for them to figure out what was under the hood. Then, tack on another 12 months for enough time to go by for them to justify the expense of time and money in the first 18 months. They called it a “Technology Transformation” as a way of calming their nerves. They should have just said, “We had an idea a year and a half ago. We will not be having another idea for three years.” One idea in 4 years is a sign of dementia, not intelligence and sophistication. Our product has very little to do with the systems they are replacing with their transformation. They’d know that if they were able to have new ideas. The way big companies think is insane.

Ideas are the seeds that birth innovation.

Healthy organizations reproduce. If organizations are not the foundry for new ideas, then they are in a downward cycle. Yes, things are allowed to transform. Caterpillars transform into butterflies. And then they die. It’s the last stage of their lives. Companies must create the conditions necessary for ideas to be born. Healthy companies give birth to new ideas constantly.