line of broken lightbulbs of bad ideas leading to a good idea

Why innovation managers shouldn’t be ignoring bad ideas

March 20, 2019

Advanced Learning

When it comes to the principles of brainstorming, one of the basic mantras is that no idea is a bad idea. That may not be entirely true, but, besides encouraging people not to censor themselves for fear of ridicule, bad ideas can often lead to good ideas.

Of course, some concepts may not be achievable or be of little worth, but they can sometimes be necessary stepping stones to good ideas.

Picking apart a bad idea can sprout some potential to be developed or moulded into a good one. On the other hand, some so-called ‘crazy’ ideas may actually be great, just simply not understood yet.

For small companies, it can be easy to identify the assets of a seemingly outlandish idea and invest in developing it to become truly fruitful. By comparison, larger companies tend not to have such a mechanism, and so could potentially be missing out on the good of many a ‘bad’ idea. The following steps could prove useful:

  1. Keep listening. Listening to all stakeholders regularly and paying special attention to new information often holds the clues to move you forward toward better versions of an idea.
  2. Work in “hunch mode”. Think of strategies and initiatives as current best guesses. Hunches will likely need to be updated regularly, and sometimes radically.
  3. Build to learn. Get past the abstractions of ideas to the building phase – even if it’s only a non-functional prototype – to better evaluate an idea.
  4. Resist instincts to kill. Reframe the problem and solution of a seemingly problematic idea, or explore adjacencies to lead to possible breakthroughs rather than discarding it completely.
  5. Be impatient. You should be highly impatient to achieve the real, measurable success of seemingly crazy ideas and not lose your way.

Innovation managers should bear in mind that embracing the bad ideas is a part of the idea generation process, one that also benefits greatly from team collaboration – combining and improving upon ideas to lead to business success.

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