“The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen was one of my favorite childhood stories. The Ugly Duckling is really a story of transformation and things are not always what they first appear. The point I wanted to make is that the truly disruptive ideas are a lot like baby swans. When the average person is first introduced to a disruptive idea it looks more like an ugly duckling than a swan. There just aren’t that many people knowledgeable enough to be able to tell the difference between a duckling and a swan, although there are many “experts” who will tell you they can.

The second point about the ugly duckling is that over time the differences between the characteristics of swans and ducks become more pronounced. The same is true for ideas … as you start to build and validate your business model the distinction between what is a good business and what will be a great business start to emerge. The key point is that it takes time to prove an idea …

Finally, the number of people knowledgeable enough to tell the difference between a swan and an ugly duckling is very small. First of all the “expert” would have to have seen enough faux swans and real ugly ducklings at various stages of development to recognize the key differences. There are a lot of people claiming to be “expert” ornithologists out there who are all looking for the next swan but have never raised any ducklings at all.

In conclusion, if people are telling you your idea is an ugly duckling that may not necessarily be a bad thing. However, you do need to spend the time to care for and nurture the idea long enough to be able to tell the difference between an ugly duckling and a swan.