July 19

Bad Ideas

There’s an old cliché about creative work that states, “There’s no such thing as a bad idea.” It’s wrong. So, what do you do when a bad idea is tossed into the ring? Here are a few best-practice suggestions:

►Immediately address the potential merits of the idea. Use phrases such as, “What I like about that is…,” and “What’s dif- ferent about that is…,” and show how the idea could possibly be used in a productive manner. Don’t make the first comment a critique, especially in a group setting.

►Use the merits you suggested as fuel for a new and more pro- ductive direction: “What if we used the core of that idea, and instead we…” This way, the person feels like they’ve made a valuable contribution, but the idea has been reshaped in a way that makes it more valuable to the team.

►Have a rule that no one can shoot down an idea without offer- ing an alternative or building on the existing idea. If the climate in the room is negative, it will squelch the conversation.

►Refocus on objectives. When an idea can’t be salvaged or restruc- tured, simply address the fact that it might be valuable in some context but that it doesn’t really match the current objectives.

How you handle bad ideas can set the tone for the entire group and subsequently for the effectiveness of your efforts on the project. Set clear objectives, and be brutally honest with one another, but make sure to do it in a way that moves the conversation forward rather than stifling it.

Deal with bad ideas immediately and directly.


Have you ever had to deal with a bad idea? How did you handle it?

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