Bad Ideas Don’t Exist

Donovan Cronkhite
President, RJM

Posted On August 29, 2013

At some point in time, there was a person who thought that strapping themselves inside of a metal tube filled with thousands of gallons of highly flammable material was a good idea, and lighting a match to the entire thing would be a great idea. It's assured that the idea caused many an eyebrow to be raised when first announced. Then we went to the moon, and it wasn't such a bad idea.

Lesson learned - you never have a bad idea.

Granted, there have been ideas that are better than others. And like strapping yourself to a rocket, some ideas need further clarification to work properly. But no idea in itself is bad. Which is why most brainstorming sessions fail.

Every business needs new ideas. Without them, no new products get made, no new services get offered, and most importantly, no new revenue streams are created. Most times we look to an old fashioned brainstorming session to help generate these ideas. Gather a few of the "creative" people in a room, get a few blank sheets of paper and start throwing out ideas. But then what happens?

The failure point of a brainstorming session occurs approximately 2:15 after the first idea is announced. After staring at the initial few ideas written on the mostly empty easel pad, someone will announce, "that will never work." Meeting doomed; to safe ideas, negativity and explanations on why something won't work instead of exploring what will.

Yield better results by remembering that no idea is bad, they're just the fertilizer that better ideas grow in. Great ideas don't congregate around a single thought, they grow from each other naturally, each presenting a seed of the idea before it. Remembering that there are no bad ideas allows a group to avoid long discussions on why something won't work and instead focus on what makes the idea interesting in the first place. Just like all good comedy is rooted in truth, so are ideas.

Crafting an environment where anything goes is then crucial. Each person should be encouraged to bring their outside interests and activities to the table. These interests and activities outside of work are what make the person interesting in the first place, so don't constrict the thought process to just work.

There is also no reason to only include the "creative" people in a brainstorming, everyone can have a good idea. Each person within your company brings a host of outside experiences and interests to the table. In an anything goes environment, participants will begin to naturally interject and connect a variety of outside influences to generate new and inventive ideas. These are the ideas that make a difference. Rarely are the great ideas the first ones presented. Instead they grow out of impossible suggestions much later in a session and often come from the people you might least expect.

While the thought of a brainstorming session might strike fear in many employees, when presented and operated in an environment where everyone can speak freely and without judgment, a brainstorming session is still a great way to get your business jumpstarted.

This post was originally published in the September, 2013 edition of the Jackson Magazine.