Coming up with great ideas may be easier than you think.
No wonder most companies are starving for bright new ideas. The typical American submits fewer than two ideas per year to his/her company. And most of these are practical suggestions to mundane problems, such as: “Let’s move our file cabinets from the second floor to the first floor where people can access them easier.”
There’s nothing wrong with coming up with safe ideas or improvements. But, c’mon—where are all the risky, half-crazy “breakthrough ideas” that will help you and your company surge ahead of your competitors?” Typically, our built-in fear of ridicule deters us from even voicing our most exciting ideas. (“No way am I going to submit this—they’ll laugh me right out of the room.”)
Actually, if your initial idea seems too expensive, too wild, too impractical, or too complicated, you might be on the scent of something wonderful. History shows that foolish, unreasonable, outrageous flights of fancy are typically the creative forerunners of what works.
Leonardo da Vinci once dreamed up a 60-foot crossbow that shot trees for arrows. It required two soldiers cranking a powerful winch just to cock the ridiculous behemoth. Foolish and impractical? Sure, but that outrageous crossbow eventually led Leonardo to envision some of Europe’s most innovative and practical defense systems.
The truth is, coming up with great ideas may be easier than you think. Here’s a trusted little formula I’ve used for years: First, suspend your disbelief and clear your mind of ‘can’t.’ Next, just think of something that everyone agrees would be ‘wonderful’ if it were only ‘possible.” Then, set out to make it possible.”
You and your creative team can do the same. The next time you meet, give yourself permission to suspend your normal sense of disbelief. For now, don’t worry about the problems or obstacles associated with your ideas—and just let the crazy “what if’s?” flow freely. Just imagine something that would be wonderful for your clients or company if it were only possible. Then set out together to make it possible.
Remember: Ideas first; practicality later.