Brainstorming Fallacy: There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Idea. Yes There Are!


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“There’s no such thing as a bad idea.”  So goes the prompt at the beginning of just about every brainstorming sessions.

Wait! What?! There’s no such thing as a bad idea when you’re brainstorming?! Of course there are bad ideas! Who’s kidding who?!

Now let me clarify: I’m not talking about crazy, ‘what if’ ideas. They’re fine, and sometimes even great. The more ideas the merrier. They don’t mess with the process and often lead to other wonderful thinking.

But there’s nothing worse for the energy of a group than a person who isn’t prepared.

Here’s the brainstorming rule I live by:

The only bad idea is an uninformed  idea

Uninformed ideas and assertions can drive an exercise or inspired discussion right off the rails. Any amount of time a group must take to educate someone who isn’t up to speed is not only wasted time, it saps the group of its momentum.

And, as everyone who’s participated in a brainstorming session knows: energy is everything!

Prior to facilitating a brainstorming event, I almost always give the team homework. The pre-prep can be articles, videos, a film related to what we’re exploring, they can be internal documents everyone needs to be familiar with, or competitive information that gives everyone important context. I might even ask team members to make short presentations on specific questions based on their area of knowledge.

I’m not saying that sometimes there isn’t grumbling about the homework. But people almost always do it. No one wants to look dumb in front of their peers or feel out of the loop.

One of the most fertile brainstorming summits I facilitated actually began weeks before we came together. My client was an international skincare brand and the group was made up of participants from the U.S., South America, and Europe.

I wanted the session to benefit from the team’s range of international experience so we created small presentation teams composed of members from different countries and different disciplines. Each team was assigned three international competitors to research and give a short presentation to begin the summit. That got team members to meet each other virtually and make connections before the event began so the group had some lubrication. The second benefit was that the short, fantastic presentations each team gave meant we all began with a shared knowledge base.

Prepping for a brainstorming session jumpstarts the action

A little pre-prep homework that helps frame the inquiry and gets participants thinking also means that you begin your session moving at 15 mph so brainstorming ramps up to speed a heckuva lot quicker than if you were starting from zero.

Uninformed ideas are energy sappers. But when all team member know what they’re talking about, there truly is no such thing as a lousy idea, and no one’s time is ever wasted.


Want to know The #1 Cardinal Rule of Brainstorming and Why You Should Ignore It? Click here!


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