It is one of the most painful things to do.

But at the same time, one of the most important.

Walking away from an idea or project which is just not working.

In some cases this can mean literally moving on and walking away, to another team or project. But in most cases, walking away means moving your focus to something different.

Every innovation team or creative person will encounter a situation where no matter how much effort you put in, it seems like the idea is going nowhere. Either customers are not interested, or you are unhappy with the progress.

The danger here is that not all ideas are good ideas. Some ideas stick around longer than they should, and as a result, use up resources which would be better used on other different ideas.

But how can you tell when it is the right time to move on?

Here are a few helpful signals:

  1. Don’t give up at the first sign of frustration. Research shows that often, our best ideas come after we have already been working on a challenge for a while and feel like we have run out of ideas. Give it time, and further ideas will come.
  2. However, become clear on what success would mean for that idea or project. Every great idea needs to show the following three characteristics: Desirability, Feasibility and Viability.
  3. Become clear on how you will validate whether you are making progress towards those success criteria. Remember to do this in a way that validates the idea / innovation itself, and not you (the person who came up with it
  4. Actually do the validation.
  5. Set up regular, set decision times / stage gates to review this validation progress. If the idea is not able to pass the validation criteria, then usually I would recommend giving it one more chance, but be clear about something that needs to change on the offering before validating it again.

If that all does not work, it might just be time to walk away from that idea or project.

Remember, just because you move on, it does not mean that the idea or you are a failure.

Quite the opposite.

Every idea you walk away from gives you knowledge and skills which will get you closer to success in your next idea.

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.