Regarding People With Big Ideas

Whenever someone proposes a new, ambitious sounding project (framework/library/language) type thing to me, I have a standard test for whether or not I should take this person seriously. It’s a simple series of questions*.

The specifics vary depending on the situation, but the questions are usually of the form “Ok, but can your proposal do X?” or “Can I use this thing to solve problem Y?”. X or Y starts out close to the problem as stated in the original proposal, but as I ask more iterations of the question, it gets further and further away from the problem they claimed to solve in the first place.

If the person keeps saying “yes” to these questions (and ambitious/manic people often do!), I take them less and less seriously. They don’t know the edges of the thing yet. It’s still shapeless in their mind. But it can solve everything! Right.

*This idea is actually borrowed from a VC I used to work with. He’d use it on people who were pitching their business ideas to him. This may be some well known distant relative of the “5 Whys”, but I don’t know of a name for it.