Make Your Ideas Last: Unlock the Potential of Idea Inertia

There’s a phrase that all great advertisers live by: “Great advertisement wears in, not out.”

Spend enough time on social media, and you’ll quickly realize the struggle many creators endure when publishing content. They are always trying to innovate. Content, in essence, is a form of marketing.

Constant innovation can lead to the exhaustion of your ideas.

Allowing an idea to take root requires significant energy to alter your way of thinking (you’re not as open-minded as you think). Take the nutrition space, for example. In the 1940s, a study was published that found a correlation between high-fat diets and elevated cholesterol levels. By the 1980s, this was debunked. There was no correlation at all. Yet, people continue to avoid all fats, believing it prevents heart disease or obesity.

Ideas carry momentum. The longer and more repetitively we engage with them, the more ingrained they become in our subconscious. This is the essence of idea inertia. So, what exactly is it, and how can it be utilized in marketing?

What Is Idea Inertia?

Inertia is derived from Newton’s first law of motion, which posits that an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an external force.

Ideas, while not governed by the same physical laws as described by Newton, operate on similar mechanics. They are propelled by the cognitive biases entrenched in your brain.

Your political, social, and religious convictions originate from the initial ideas you’ve dedicated time to encoding in your memory. Their inertia accumulates over time. The more an idea is engaged with, the more “motion” it gains.

This mental inertia is fueled by confirmation bias, intensifying as you seek evidence affirming your perspectives.

How Does Idea Inertia Impact Your Life?

Discussing the psychology of money, Morgan Housel observed, “Your personal experience with money comprises a minuscule fraction of global occurrences, yet it profoundly shapes your worldview.”

The influence of idea inertia on decision-making and behavior is often underestimated. The notion that your ideas and perspectives gradually evolve is, in many respects, a myth. Thomas Kuhn popularized the concept of paradigm shifts, transitional phases where prevailing ideas collapse under the weight of accumulated contradictions.

In the face of crisis, adaptation to new ideas, methods, and processes is imperative for restoring stability, albeit a challenging endeavor due to the entrenched inertia of prior ideas.

Nobel Prize laureate Max Planck poignantly remarked, “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

Consider the plight of physician Ignaz Semmelweis in the 1800s, whose advocacy for handwashing amidst a high maternal mortality rate was met with professional disdain, culminating in his personal despair.

Only two decades later, with the advent of Louis Pasteur's Germ Theory, did hand hygiene become a medical mainstay, signaling the eclipse of outdated practices.

How Do You Get Ideas To Build Inertia?

Ideas can cultivate momentum either organically or through meticulous strategies. Memes exemplify ideas that spontaneously garner inertia, reverberating across various online platforms.

Taking a more deliberate approach, consider the following strategy:

1) Make the nerds geek out

In the beginning of Paypal, the thing that moved the needle for their business was simple. The nerds geeked out. Instead of taking out $5 to split lunch, they sent it over the Palm Pilot.

It was so different people stopped to think “Wow… This is the future.” Except in those early days it was just tech geeks. They were the only people that wanted to feel like they were in the future. But Paypal gave them that feeling.

When the nerds geek out, it creates a cult-like attraction. The idea and product of Paypal spread like wildfire. A common strategy used by companies within the tech industry (i.e., Steve Jobs releasing the iPhone).

2) Trade up the chain

Ryan Holiday has a process for marketing his books that he calls “trading up the chain”.

Today, all media is interconnected. People pick up and re-report other’s content in an attempt to arbitrage information. Ryan Holiday understood this very well.

After writing The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan started to receive emails from coaches saying that his booking helped them win games. He immediately sent hundreds of copies to sports teams in an attempt for the book to catch on in sports.

What was the goal? Give the idea of stoicism in sports some inertia and get featured in Sports Illustrated or ESPN.

Eventually his friend asked if he wanted to be a guest on her small sports podcast. An opportunity to tell his story on his own terms. The podcast led to niche sites covering the story – showcasing it to the right people.

Shortly after he received a call. It was Sports Illustrated. They wanted to run a story about the book titled “How a Book on Stoicism Became Wildly Popular at Every Level of the NFL”. Every book sold out after that.

Persistent and strategic propagation enables ideas to embed themselves. Understanding and leveraging idea inertia is instrumental for nurturing ideas that resonate.


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