Why Having Bad Ideas is Important


Coming up with creative ideas is part of my job. As a trainer and coach I design and deliver learning programmes and as a writer I market and promote clients’ services and products. This means that keeping my own creative juices topped up is important.

More and more of us are asked to be creative and innovative these days, so I thought it would be helpful to share things I’ve come across recently that have inspired me, meaning I can inspire my clients.

Spending a penny


I love this.

It puts a totally different spin on toilet humour, doesn’t it? It reminds me that you can find inspiration even in the most banal of things, a public toilet.

Life can be full of instructions and signs but they needn’t be dull or drab. Injecting humour into a situation engages people and makes them laugh.

And I think this is a good thing. Unless that is when there’s a line outside the toilets and the call of nature is shrieking loudly.

Getting to the Gold

A few years ago my husband and I did an online course on creativity at Stanford University. One of the challenges was to come up with a solution to this problem: how can we get more sleep?

To do this we had to write down 100 answers and from those 100 answers choose one of them and develop it more fully.

So, we started and came up with obvious answers, then continued and came up with dull ones, and then the boring ones.

Then an interesting thing happened.

The ideas started getting better. The one that struck gold and that we decided was the answer was no. 92. (we were very good, though, and did keep going until 100).

The instructors in the course had told us that in order to get to the good stuff, you need to persevere and keep at it. And then keep at it some more.

We had been doubtful about this but it paid off.

Sometimes, making the time to dump a mass of ideas down on paper can be just the thing you need.

(For a short talk about this course by the exuberant course director, Tina Seelig, and to learn about the wonders of Lazlo the Fish click here).

The bookcase below reminds me of this way of thinking.

The Jackalope Ranch, Geoff Cline + Sallie Trout, Foo, Gertie, Gus, Dinkydao,

Imagine the brief “Design a different kind of bookcase.” Combining a bookcase with an abseiling feature is an answer I bet would be up there at idea no. 96.

A Genius at Work

If you’re a lover of fantasy fiction like me, you’ll have been tickled pink this month because Philip Pullman’s new novel, La Belle Sauvage, came out.

To celebrate this, BBC Radio 4 has a host of goodies and one of them is a series of 5 short essays by Pullman (each podcast is about 13 minutes long) on the storytelling process. They are called Daemon Voices.

And they are wonderful.

Pullman lets you into his world and shares how he gets his ideas.

Words make you think

In Episode 2, he traces the inspiration for his Dark Materials trilogy: Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Having fallen in love with how Paradise Lost made him feel as a teenager, he realised he wanted to write something that captured the same atmosphere he felt from the epic poem.

And so began his first book, Northern Lights.

It’s comforting to know that those we think have access to a deep ocean of imagination also need to get their ideas from somewhere. In Pullman’s case it was Milton.

What have you been reading or listening to lately?

How can it make you think and nudge you closer to your next creative idea?

And which sources do you use to keep up your creativity?

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