Community Building: Breathe Oxygen on Your Ideas

Tuesday of this week, 12+ GovLoopers sat around a conference table, (w/ requisite beer and pizza), and talked about 6 new possible GovLoop website designs. Yes, GovLoop could have huddled in the corner with a blanket draped over any glimmer of what might be, whispering back and forth. But what the heck? That’s about as productive of getting a fire going in a ceramic stove and then shutting the door.

No input? No oxygen? No good result.

So, instead, we sat around some mock-ups flashed on the wall and breathed oxygen all over the 6 possibilities.

Ironically, a couple of days before we had our input/feedback/idea-storming I read this post by the Marvelous Matt Mullenweg: 1.0 Is the Loneliest Number.

Here’s my favorite part:

“Usage is like oxygen for ideas. You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world. It’s even worse because development doesn’t happen in a vacuum — if you have a halfway decent idea, you can be sure that there are two or three teams somewhere in the world that independently came up with it and are working on the same thing, or something you haven’t even imagined that disrupts the market you’re working in.

By shipping early and often you have the unique competitive advantage of hearing from real people what they think of your work, which in best case helps you anticipate market direction, and in worst case gives you a few people rooting for you that you can email when your team pivots to a new idea. Nothing can recreate the crucible of real usage.

You think your business is different, that you’re only going to have one shot at press and everything needs to be perfect for when Techcrunch brings the world to your door. But if you only have one shot at getting an audience, you’re doing it wrong.”

Now here’s the best part. A community is the place to get input. Of course this comes with the caveat that if you belong to a community of ravaging, insulting, unproductive fools, you might not want to put your idea baby out there for the wolves (but then again, why would you be a part of a group like this anyway?!). So if it’s a professional and respectful community (cough cough GovLoop), people will give you honest input and constructive feedback.

And yes, even when it’s a professional and helpful community it’s sometimes very hard to put things out there because we are all protective of our ideas, and no one is 100% perfect at getting feedback (even if it’s entirely constructive). But you don’t your idea to end up like the bubble boy…

So ship early and often and start oxygenating your ideas.

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Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Great advice! And kudos to GovLoop for doing this. I know it can be frustrating experience when you put your ideas out there but if you can adopt the Zen paradox of having the ego to do your best work but not the ego to take the criticism personally, you will be a better web developer / designer / manager / etc.