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Deal With Bad Ideas

Experts on "brainstorming meetings" usually quote that old mantra, "There is no such thing as a bad idea."  

But Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer, co-authors of SmartStorming corporate trainers who conduct many meetings, wanted to discover out how real people feel about the issue. 

So they posted this question on LinkedIn: 

'We've all heard the expression 'There are no bad ideas.' Do you agree? If not, why? If so, what does the expression mean to you?' We wanted to see just how varied the responses would be."

 The response was a surprise because so many felt it was untrue. 

Here is a small sampling:

"Of course there are bad ideas. When your product does not meet customer [expectations], it's a bad idea."

"In the army they used to say the only stupid question is the one not asked. There are plenty of stupid ideas but everyone should have the opportunity to express [them]."
"We are taught to encourage everyone to say only positive things to others' suggestions and keep everything nice and rosy. Unless you want to sit around a campfire, sing 'Kumbaya,' and make s'mores, this is ludicrous!

But Rigie and Harmeyer view bad ideas differently.

"It all depends on how you look at bad ideas," Harmeyer explains. "There are obviously ideas that appear unfeasible, impractical, irrational, harmful, and potentially devastating. No one of sound mind would propose implementing such an idea, assuming they truly believed it to be bad. The real question isn't whether such ideas are bad, but instead, should those ideas be cast aside as soon as they're voiced?"

 "Most brainstorming gurus agree that when searching for new, innovative solutions, it's important to give even ideas that resonate as undeniably 'bad' a chance to be considered, debated, and developed," says Rigie.

Here's why you should let bad ideas fly, they say and here's also how to manage them:

Criticism kills innovation. According to Rigie and Harmeyer, first, and perhaps most obvious, is the fact that rampant criticism in a brainstorm is offensive to many. When people's ideas are quickly and consistently shot down, they become intimidated and are reluctant to share-not an ideal situation in a group idea generation session.

In the beginning, you want quantity, not quality. As a rule of thumb, the idea generation phase of a brainstorm should be spontaneous and free flowing, where ideas are plentiful, offered spontaneously and without hesitation.

Often, bad ideas lead to BIG ideas. You never know when a so-called "bad idea" will contain the seeds of greatness within it.

 "That is, unless the idea is shot down prematurely before the potentially great idea within it has a chance to blossom," says Rigie. "And that is the point: to suspend judgment until an idea has had a fair chance to show all it's got."

  "Most of us enter a brainstorm with the goal of generating fresh, innovative, game-changing ideas," says Harmeyer. "However, if judgment and criticism are part of the ideation process, it is highly unlikely that the goal will be achievable."

 "Suspend judgment," adds Rigie. "Even if you know, without a doubt, that an idea is bad-really bad, even horrible-let it live, just for a while. You just might find a game-changing gem hidden inside! Now doesn't that sound like a good idea?"
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Influence. Don't Manipulate

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