People love to say there are “no bad ideas” in brainstorming.
This is a lie.
There are plenty of bad ideas in brainstorming. In fact, your brainstorms should be mostly bad ideas.
It’s not about pretending every idea has inherent value. It’s about stopping the myth that bad ideas are a bad thing.
Bad ideas mean your brain is trying to solve a problem in a creative way. You’re trying to make connections that are less obvious – maybe connections that don’t actually exist. But you’re drawing new lines and opening up the planes of creativity. Chances are, most of the ideas that come from this place are bad. Like, bad bad.
We don’t need to perpetuate the narrative that all ideas have potential. Sure, someone else could take a kernel from your terrible idea and turn it into something less terrible, then something OK, then something worthwhile. That doesn’t mean the initial idea wasn’t bad, it simply means it’s sparked inspiration in someone else. This is what most people mean when they say there’s “no bad ideas” in brainstorming.
But can we agree to just call a spade a spade? Sometimes, it’s just a bad idea.
Here’s what you don’t do, though:
You don’t criticize someone for having a bad idea.
You don’t try to set a standard that only viable ideas should be said aloud.
You don’t create a culture where people would rather contribute nothing than an idea they’re not sure could work.
You accept that bad ideas are a vital part of the process, and you make it OK to have them. A lot of them. As many as it takes until you get to the good stuff.
And you applaud the sayers of the bad ideas, because it means they are stretching their limits and trying to create something new – something unexpected – something that hasn’t been done already – something that’s not the “low-hanging fruit.”
And if you’re like us, you hand out a turkey trophy to the person who came up with the most god-awful, embarrassing, impossible, pointless, nonsensical, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea, and they carry it with pride until the next brainstorming session, when they will vie for victory once again.
For what it’s worth, when it comes to my team and our brainstorms, I’d take a bad idea over a mediocre, viable-but-forgettable idea 100 out of 100 times.