Lies you should believe: There are no dumb ideas 

When I was a brainstorming ideas for a series of posts, it took me back to a brainstorming session we had in a company I have worked for. As we got started, the leader said this phrase: “there are no dumb ideas.” Now, clearly none of us in the room thought that there really aren’t any ideas that could be classified as dumb. In fact there are plenty of truly dumb ideas, more than good ideas actually. You probably realize already that the latter half of most brainstorming sessions is there to weed out the ideas that are not as good as the other ideas. You know which ones go first? The bad ones. 

However, the reason you need to suspend disbelief and go with this thought is that if you think an idea might be feasible, you should go ahead and say it. If you feel like your idea might be interesting, you need to go ahead and give it a go.  

A definitely true example, possibly

For example, pretend it is the early 1900s. Wilbur and Orville Wright just took that initial flight in Kitty Hawk, NC. In an unconnected event, a meeting is called at a failing transportation company to brainstorm how best to move people and goods around the world. There are no bad ideas they were told, and then someone who had read about the Wright’s flight said confidently: “I read an article about two people working on a flying machine. What if we transported people and goods through the air?”  

Since air travel was still mostly a pipe dream after these first few flights, this probably would have been thought of as the dumbest idea ever. In fact, the person who suggested it was probably not invited back to the next brainstorming session. “Flying. Pshaw. Who invited this person to our meeting” (That is just how they spoke back then.) 

But imagine if instead of saying “maybe later” or outright ostracizing this person, the group said. “Wow, wouldn’t that be a good idea? If they have built this flying machine, maybe we should investigate this?” And then they invested into the concepts of flight? According to American Airlines, the first scheduled cargo flight was on Oct 15, 1944. The air cargo idea in the brainstorming session was actually kind of genius…in retrospect. Now imagine how long it probably took someone to say “let’s go to the moon.” 

Of course there are bad ideas

The phrase “there are no bad ideas” generally means “if you have an idea, don’t be afraid to say it. It might be a dumb idea, but that’s okay. The process will take care of it.” Sometimes for the better or the worse, but if your group follows the rules, the worst thing that can happen to your idea is that it doesn’t get priority. 

So if you think an idea is even remotely a reasonable one, suggest it. It certainly may not be a great idea, in fact it might be really dumb. Own it. If you still think it is a good idea after being shot down, don’t let it go and (in a non annoying way,) try to prove it. Don’t let your possibly great idea die as easily as being deleted from the brainstorming whiteboard for not being the best idea. 

Of course, if you do learn it is a bad idea,, well, then it may be time to give up. Like I said, there actually are bad ideas.