A Place For Your Crazy Ideas
I have a challenge for all of you. I’m conducting a contest to find the best
Outrageously Sane idea.
What is that? It’s an idea that actually might be a good solution to a problem, but
that provokes others to say “That’ll never work!” When I was in eighth grade and
we were electing a class president, the pompous nerd in the class stood up and said
“I propose that we dispense with this democratic folderol and declare me king!”
Everyone laughed, but guess what? We did it. And it was an interesting experiment.
Probably because when you’re 13 you don’t automatically reject wild ideas.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you submit overthrow-democracy ideas. But here’s a more realistic example
of Outrageously Sane: in May, 1985 Robert Sinsheimer proposed sequencing the human genome. The
NIH wasn’t interested. Expensive, time-consuming, and what would the benefits be? It took years and a
complicated series of events for Congress to approve the project, and even then it was underfunded and
understaffed, despite the participation of people like James Watson and Francis Collins. It wasn’t until
1998, when researcher Craig Venter announced that he was going to do it faster and cheaper, that the game
really got under way, and within a couple of years the goal was accomplished.
Of course, today we all recognize the benefits of this effort. But it wasn’t long ago that it was considered a
wild-eyed notion. We’ve all been in meetings where a proposal is made – maybe by you – and everyone
around the table says “That’s great, but it’d never work.” By which they mean management wouldn’t
approve it, or it would cost too much, or it’s just too different from the way we normally handle things.
But it’s still a good idea! And I have always subscribed to the principle that a good idea deserves a full
hearing rather than a quick dismissal. So I’m asking for those. They might be industry-wide proposals
(something many companies would contribute to), interesting match-ups (combining two or more areas of
expertise), or more modest proposals that apply just to your company or to internal efficiencies. So think
of this as a Suggestion Box, but one that’s only for the “crazy” ideas that need more attention.
What’s the prize? We’ll figure that out. Let’s start with your own desire to air a great concept. Send them
to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line Outrageously Sane. This could be the start of
Neil Greenberg, Editor
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Letter from the Editor