The Value of an Idea


We all have ideas, and we all like to believe our ideas have value. However, we are also victims of our own biases, hopes, and fears, as well the biases of others. These weaknesses make our ideas suspect. Obviously, knowing the true value of an idea is worth noting. Knowing the value of an idea can help you in everything you do from work to play. It would also give you a weapon against all who may deceit you.

There are two components to the value of an idea: utility and validity. The utility of an idea is easy to understand. Utility is how much the ideas can get us to our goal. An idea that increases your company’s profits most likely has high utility to you. The utility of the idea is also very subjective. Good ideas for you may not very good for anyone else.

Validity is much more difficult to pin down, but it is the most objective of the two. Validity is a measure of how much the idea reflects the world around us. An idea with 100% validity is a guarantee. An idea with 0% validity is pure fantasy. While people recognize the various levels of validity, they often get them confused with each other leading to many misunderstands that can often lead to disaster. It is then a good idea to have some sort of guide to the various levels so that you can know instantly if your ideas measure up.

  • Proposition – Just ordinary statements of indeterminate validity. Propositions are just organized thoughts, but they are where all ideas begin.
  • Hypothesis – An educated guess that means that a logical analysis was applied to the proposition and it passed. This is a very important step. It’s the end result of philosophical discourse and where science begins. Because of their relative importance, many people confuse hypotheses with theories.
  • Exception – Often contributed to random chance. Exceptions are so statistically irrelevant {often less than 30%) that you can safely ignore most of them. People rarely look for exceptions, but they often pop up when testing other ideas. They are the exceptions to the rule.
  • Rule – A rule, trend or generalization is an idea that has at least 50% validity. Rules may be highly useful, but they are not really considered facts.
  • Theory – An idea that has at least 65% validity. Theories are considered true statements, but are often confused with hypotheses by most scientifically illiterate individuals.
  • Law – A proposition that is valid 95% of the time. Please note that a law needs to only be 95% accurate. That leaves 5% for exceptions. A law can be wrong on occasion. People often confuse laws and legal laws. The legal laws are only laws in name only. They are actually conventions set by the societies that establish them.
  • Convention – An agreement among individuals, and thus only has validity among those individuals. Conventions are worthless outside their establishing groups.
  • Definition – A definition is 100% true, and is often referred to as facts. As natural definitions are extremely rare, almost all definitions are set by convention.
  • AxiomAn axiom is a natural definition. They are definitions of natural phenomena that are presumed true without question where no test could ever be conducted. Axioms form the bedrock for all logic systems, and therefore caution should be taken when establishing them.

These are some of the most common levels of validity, but this not the end of the story. Most of these require some sort of testing, and that’s where the discussion needs to lead. In the meantime, this list should come in handy when you have to come face to face with the know-it-alls in your life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *