The Beauty of a "Bad" Idea

"This is probably a really bad idea but ..." How many of us cover our asses with a prelude sentence like this, before offering up our gem of a thought?

There's also this spin on downselling ourselves and staying stalled: "I don't have any good ideas [on how to move this project forward; start this book; what to do this weekend or eat for dinner]."

But you do! We all have an idea and here's where we can start. We don't need a great idea off the cuff but just ONE to get things going.

Just one brave, adorable, shitty, crappy, ridiculous idea.

Because just one "bad" idea is a start. No more blank paper or open space of nothingness.

It's Hard to Be Bad

I used to give a writing exercise that was to write as badly as you can and as fast as you can. Guess what?

It's HARD. Try it. It's hard when you're writing fast -- writing improvisationally, writing past the nay-saying judge, writing so fast all you can do is trust your instincts.  What you'll find is it's just in one's nature to create something that has a modicum of decency. I'm not talking about trotting it out to the New York Times or the Nobel Prize committee or MOMA but there's going to be something there.

Plus, if you allow yourself a bad idea it's something to push off of. Especially if there's one more person in the room, so, since it's Friday, let's set up this scenario:

A: "What do you want to do this weekend?"

B: "Let's go to the midnight show at the Lusty Lady before it closes."

A: "Hell no. But I'd like to go see a funny movie, like Date Night, followed by Mexican food in bed, how's that?"

Give Your Ego a Kiss and Go For It

The hardest place to step out with a bad idea is at work, of course. Our fragile egos. I'd like to challenge/dare/invite work teams to say it's okay to have a shitty first draft of an idea and that no one has to waste time on any of those ass-covering preludes. Example:

A: "Who has an idea of how we can make more money on our product?"

B: "Let's stand on our heads and see if that helps."

A: "Hmm, that would hurt a few of our heads HOWEVER, maybe we can stand our plan on its head and see how we can do something so differently that we'll catch our customers' attention in a new way."


Turn a Bad Idea Into Something Good

It's easy to say, "Nah, I don't like that" to the offering -- the gift -- of a first draft idea. And then you sit there with your Orphan Annie eyes blinking into the air. Next time, take the idea and use it as a place to push off from. Go in the opposite direction or take a tiny nugget or a word or a letter or a strange-seeming association to push things forward.

What if there were no bad ideas? Free your mind, let the ideas flow. As I write this post, I think of the writers and actors at Saturday Night Live -- can you imagine their idea-generating sessions?

The first "bad" idea is an important start. Consider it just the first in a procession of a string of original thought, creativity and eventual solutions.

And you might end up having a bit more fun, too.