This sounds a bit dramatic. But it’s true.
The greatest thing my high school principle ever did for me was let me skip school.
That’s right. That was brilliant. During school hours, he let me take a classmate, skip
classes and go to other high schools to meet with other high school principles to discuss
launching a regional, private school newspaper. That was in 1975. Fourteen years later
that decision led me to write my first book and a few years later to a discovery that would
change the way I think… forever.
(Picture of the Octagon, AM Press…) (Picture of My book: “How to Publish & Market a
On Feb 6. 1989, I discovered what we would later call Concept Modeling.
In a massive eureka moment, I hit upon the simple but for me, mind-blowing,
understanding that Concepts and Ideas are not only different things but very separate
(Picture of the Wall Street Journal, Mondrian and Tomorrow People )
As you read this, you may feel ideas and concepts are almost the same thing but they are
radically different. “Concept” is as different from “idea” as the abstract world is from the
material world. Why would anyone understand that when most people today, even most
dictionaries, treat idea and concept as practically the same thing.
(Picture of dictionary definitions)
The current definition of the word “concept” is wrong. By the way, that hints at the
number one reason why ideas fail: Someone has a good idea but it is built on a flawed
concept. Like a deck of cards, an idea built on a weak concept will eventually collapse
with just the slightest touch or weight. The more you think about it, I promise, the more it
(Picture of deck of card collapsing)
What I had no way of knowing back then in 1989, and over 4,000 rejections later, was
that this difference is actually difficult for many people to grasp, for the simple reason
that no one was ever taught the difference in school or university. Many times the words
are used interchangeably. At last I checked, there are no University courses, graduate or
otherwise, on concept versus idea.
(Picture of University Course selection SLAMMED WITH A RED X)
But “concept,” – and this is the short cut to understanding it – is an entirely separate thing
than “idea.” — Two entirely separate worlds.
(Picture of material world – Ideas world — concept world)
So here is the hard part of what I have to say and I apologize if it sounds personal or
negative. Ego is often, in fact almost always, the main obstacle involved with “idea.” In
other words, the idea-creator often ends up getting in the way of their own idea. Your
idea maybe entirely yours, the concepts beneath it are not!
(Picture of some self kid – “It my idea and you can’t have it!!”)
We are taught to not be afraid to ask “stupid” questions in class, but isn’t the word
“stupid” … literally branding whatever a student asks as stupid? It is o.k., but who wants
to SOUND stupid? What that question really means… go ahead ask a stupid question, we
won’t judge the question, just you! It is like Custom Officials asking a drug carrying drug
dealer if he has anything illegal to declare. He responds, “Oh gee, how did you catch
me?!!!” Concept lies in the stupid question or rather the obvious question that can sound
stupid when it is actually profound.
(Picture of a teacher: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” – Student: “What’s
a sneaker?” While the class laughs, the teacher says. “Are you that dumb?”
Ego is the biggest obstacle to this work and I hear it often inside the following responses:
“Well, it’s my idea.” Or “Yeah, I know.” or the two responses I have gotten over 3,000
times easily: “Well, it’s obvious.” or “Yeah, I get it,” when they don’t.
But think about the saying. “Everything is obvious in hindsight.” In Concept Modeling,
that translates into a powerful equation: “Everything is obvious, period.” And ADD to
that, “it is only obvious in hindsight.” In other words, after the fact, when it is often too
(Picture of a math chalkboard: Everything is obvious. “+” “in hindsight”)
Concept Modeling is the art, science and even philosophy behind perfecting your idea, at
a time in the idea’s development when not everything about your idea is obvious. In fact,
like a tip of an iceberg, most of your great idea is hidden at the time of that eureka
The reason? Concepts run deep and they are part of an abstract world beneath your idea.
Seeing them involves massive work, which is why most people skip right past that work
and into “EXECUTION.”
True concept is always obvious in the end. For that reason we often discard it’s value.
Still who wouldn’t want to own Nike, Starbucks or Apple? Their products, once
revolutionary, are all obvious in hindsight.
For me one problem is this completely false, almost illogical, mantra you hear all the
time. “It’s all in the execution.” Then why have an idea at all? Just execute whatever.
Why do ideas fail even when perfectly executed? Remember 8 Track Cassettes? (I don’t
either since I am so…uhmm…young!)
Concept is the key. The study and modeling it is what I call The Missing Discipline. It is
and will continue to grow and be transformational. It is the tag line of my up coming
book, “I Never Thought of it That Way! Concept Modeling: The Missing Discipline.”
If in the material world, matter itself has a structure and a nature defined by atoms,
molecules, molecular structure and subatomic elements, then why shouldn’t ideas have a
structure? The fact is, they do.
As you perhaps can tell, I can write, talk, and think all day long about concept…
Fortunately, that is what I do for a living anyways. So I will end here and ask you to sign
up and follow us on this great adventure, a revolutionary discipline called Concept
Modeling. It will change everything because everything is based on concept.
Let’s go do this thing. Let’s go explore the world of ideas through a deeper knowledge of
May 31, 2015