S3E25. All Ideas Are Important Ideas

Are you looking for a new way to generate ideas to solve your problems? Do you have the culture in place that accepts that all ideas are important ideas? Do you think of yourself as a creative person? What about your team?

David Kelly, CEO of the legendary design firm IDEO, tells us about the importance of building creative confidence. 

His interest in the topic began after an experience in elementary school when a classmate was ridiculed by a peer during a project, and that classmate shut down and quit the project. We often opt out of creativity due to experiences like this. We tell ourselves we aren’t creative. But it’s not true — and it’s important for us to understand that we are all creative. 

In creative workshops with accounting professionals, I always stress the need to think of more than the facts. Many accountants feel that they aren’t capable of being creative, but there’s something important that all of us in technical professions need to remember: We are all creative. Creativity is your ability to generate ideas, and we are all capable of that.

No idea is a bad idea and ideas lead to absolutely nothing. And if all ideas lead to a better idea, all ideas are important, good or bad. The goal is to generate quantity over quality, which leads to divergent thinking. You can’t create and criticize in the same space. Then you shift to convergent thinking, where you take the ideas and organize them to come at a correct solution. Now is the time to critique, but not during idea generation.

One of my favorite brainstorming exercises is “Outrageous Opposites”:

  1. Brainstorm traditional approaches in solving that problem.
  2. Brainstorm outrageous ideas in solving that problem.
  3. Look at those outrageous ideas and see if there’s anything you can expand on.

Another great brainstorming exercise is called “Kill the Business.”:

  1. Look at the company’s weaknesses and categorize them as small, medium, or large threats.
  2. Once they’re identified, answer a couple of questions:
    1. What did we not think about before that we can see now?
    2. What could attack us now, and how can we quickly eliminate that threat?
    3. Which is the most important weakness that we must fix?

This activity can generate opportunities you may not have noticed while using conventional methods for growing your business.

If leadership encourages the generation of ideas, some of them are bound to produce impressive results. Not all ideas will work; no matter how much product testing and fieldwork the company conducts, some ideas will go nowhere. But if you have no ideas, you will certainly go nowhere. When it comes to creativity and generating ideas, all are needed and all are wanted. While some might come out a little rough, with a little polishing and fine-tuning, the results can be quite extraordinary.