Ideas to Impact

A cynical-but-realistic summary of how I go from idea to impact by Kent Beck. post

I had no idea how to get from my ideas to actually having impact. Having tried unsuccessfully many times and successfully a few times, I now recognize the outlines of a sequence that seems to improve my chances.

I'm not ready to spread an idea until I am comfortable with the idea that the people I am talking to are going to make up their own minds. When I go into a conversation intending for the other person to have complete freedom to choose for themselves, everything works better.

The first step for me in exploring an idea is to adopt it myself. I don't know of any path from idea to impact that doesn't go through this stage.

I know the mechanics and maybe the theory of the idea, but I don't know the intellectual and emotional hooks that will interest and motivate other people to try what, if I'm doing it right, sounds pretty crazy. I call this the "totem", the embodiment of the spirit of the idea.

With a powerful, validated idea and a refined presentation it's time to broadcast it. Over. And over. And over. And over. And you get the idea. Every idea I've turned into impact I have repeated for years.

Failed ideas can be the seeds of successful ideas. "This would have worked if I had a pluggable drawing editor framework." Say that enough times and you might just figure out how to build a pluggable drawing editor framework.


Kent and I built multiple demonstration systems that could have benefited from a better graphics editor. Then we built a better graphics editor.