Why is it that even though you think that your idea is amazing, other people aren’t as enthusiastic?
It might just be because you are suffering from ugly baby syndrome.
This is a situation a lot of entrepreneurs and creative people find themselves in, where they believe they have developed something fantastic, but when they discuss it with other people, the response they get is much more, well, “polite” rather than excited.
Perhaps you know someone who has experienced this, or have even felt this way yourself.
What is Ugly Baby Syndrome?
Ugly Baby Syndrome is the tendency for parents to think that their child is beautiful, even if a stranger would not agree.
In the context of innovation and creativity, it refers to situations when an entrepreneur might think that they have an amazing idea, or have developed an amazing new product, but feedback from other people is not quite as positive (or people just don’t buy it…).
The baby represents their idea.
Think about a parent thinks about their own child:
- “Look at how beautiful it is, especially when they smile”
- “They did an amazing thing over the weekend, just a shame that other people didn’t see it”
- “I can see how quickly they are growing”
- “They will be amazing when they grow up and accomplish great things”
- “I made this! Other people don’t know how many countless/sleepless nights I have devoted to this baby”
- “When this baby grows up to be successful, it will represent me doing a good job”
Now, think about how you might react to seeing a stranger’s baby:
- It is screaming and annoying
- It has pooped itself
- It has just done something totally stupid (like falling over)
- There are other babies much better looking than this one…
- This baby is not special or unique, it is just like every other baby
- Their parents won’t shut up about it! How annoying!
If you really think about it from a neutral perspective…
…all babies are born imperfect.
They are helpless, stupid, and require constant attention.
It is only after they grow up, refine their skills and develop that they begin to do anything useful.
In the same way, every idea is born rough and imperfect. It needs time, attention and refinement before other people will begin to see the value in it. After all, an idea by itself has no value.
Parents will often forgive, or even not be aware of, the problems and limitations of their children and love them regardless.
Similarly, entrepreneurs will often not understand why people see problems with their ideas that they themselves don’t see or think are problems.
This is because they have a biased view of their own idea, as they have spent time developing it in their mind, and have sunk costs in the form of time, frustrations and emotions invested (as well as often money invested). They feel like just because they have spent time on it, it means it must be valuable. There is even a name for this: The IKEA effect (where people place more value on things they helped create themselves).
And they believe that other people should see that value as well.
But here is one of the most important lessons that any entrepreneur, innovator or creator will ever learn:
Other people don’t care about what you think of your own idea.
They only care whether or not your idea and innovation can provide them with value.
Some entrepreneurs get extremely defensive when they get feedback or criticism about their idea, just like if someone were to point out the flaws with their baby.
They try to justify all of the problems and trivialise the negative feedback so that they don’t need to listen to it.
However, as we showed above, all ideas need to be improved over time before they become innovations, and if the entrepreneur doesn’t take on board any feedback, the idea will have less of a chance to develop.
How to overcome the Ugly Baby Syndrome
Overcoming Ugly Baby Syndrome is both simple and hard.
It is simple because you need to accept that other people’s feedback is going to improve the idea over time, and make it much more likely to develop into a truly valuable innovation.
However, some people find it hard to not take negative feedback personally, as if people identifying problems with an idea also representing problems with the person who came up with it.
Don’t take it personally.
It just means there are ways to improve it.
Take the feedback as an opportunity to gradually improve and refine the idea, experiment, validate the changes, and continually improve it again and again.
And eventually, your baby will grow up into something really beautiful.
Have you ever encountered someone who had Ugly Baby Syndrome? What happened? Let me know in the comments below.
Latest posts by Nick Skillicorn (see all)
- Podcast S5E111: David Robson – The Intelligence Trap - April 16, 2021
- People never think of improving something by removing parts of it - April 14, 2021
- Why physicists are excited about potentially being wrong - April 13, 2021
- I shaved my head - April 9, 2021