Everyone says “There are no bad ideas when you are brainstorming.”
No one believes it though.
We say that ground rule at the beginning of brainstorming meetings in the hope that it will creatively release everyone from the prison of trying to impress the most important person in the room.
That’s what we fear. We will look dumb. We will say an idea that is foolish or impossible or has already done by a million other people.
So we say, “There are no bad ideas,” but we do not believe it. We hold back our ideas and end up creating really safe, ordinary ideas even as we try to do something extraordinary.
In order to avoid that, a while ago I’ decided that at the beginning of brainstorming meetings I will say the worst, dumbest, most baddest idea possible. I’ll blurt out, “Why don’t we get a bagful of drunken cats for this project?” And then we’ll have the worst idea on the table. The bad idea will be out of the bag. We won’t come up with something worse than a bagful of drunken cats. (Some people argue drunken badgers are worse, but everyone knows badgers can’t hold their liquor and just fall asleep in the coziness of the burlap bag.)
Throw yourself on the bad idea grenade if you want to have good brainstorming sessions. Especially if you’re the most important person in the room. They’re looking at you. You’re the leader, lead the charge into the bad idea so you can fight your way through to the best idea.