Have any bad ideas?

We all want the next great idea – the Frisbee, the Hula Hoop, the iPod, GPS or Tootsie Roll.  In working with people I often ask them to list 20 ideas for things they could imagine and would enjoy doing.  And then I watch them struggle as they filter each idea – often with a quick “Yes but” that destroys even the consideration of a possibility.

What if I asked you for a list of 20 things you would hate doing?  As soon as you have some life experience, knowing what you don’t want is often the most helpful tool in the process of clarification.

Maybe creating a list of 20 things that wouldn’t work is the best tool for finding the next great idea.  If you’re making adhesives, you don’t want a product that doesn’t stick permanently – but then you discover Post-It-Notes.  You wouldn’t want a magnetron that melted a candy bar when you got too close – but then you discover the micro-wave oven.  The last thing you want in your sterile labrotory is mold – oh wait, that’s penicillin.

Your mistakes, failures and bad ideas may be the very ingredients you need to uncover your greatest idea ever.  Could you learn how to generate more bad ideas?  It seems the good ones just magically slip though.  Don’t miss the opportunities brought to light by your mistakes.

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11 Responses to “Have any bad ideas?”

  1. Terry Says:

    Great post! This should get the wheels of thought moving.

    I have lots of ideas, most of which are simply bad without redeeming useful value. (Occasionally I have a good idea but am lousy at implementation, so I try to spend more time on ideas and less time on implementation.)

  2. FinancialBondage Says:

    a friend of mine has a list of over 200 ideas on his cell phone…. ideas that have been there for years and not acted upon. he calls it “analysis paralysis”.

    ideas are easy. acting is the hard part. the following through. I struggle with it also.

  3. Carrie Says:

    Darn it, Dan, you’ve always got to make us think. 😉

  4. Carl Amos Says:

    I see all these battery powered (hybrid) cars on the road that have to be recharged with electricity or with a gas motor. Why don’t they put a solar panel on the roof, hood and trunk so they could recharge while their sitting in the parking lot.

  5. Joanne Miller Says:

    Good Blog, Dan! It’s amazing how so many people get caught up in the “Yes, but……….” syndrome…………might be a good book title for you!! Anything worthwhile in life takes a lot of energy, commitment and work but a large percentage of people who want to fall into success are not willing to work hard enough to make it happen, therefore it is easy to rationalize inactivity with, “Yes, but……..” (and yes, I have fallen into that trap a few times myself!!)

  6. andy traub Says:

    Dan, I know you weren’t asking for an answer but I have one…

    People don’t take action b/c they don’t have to risk failing if they don’t try something new. No one is embarrassed by in-action – only but action. Ironically it is really a failure (of being who God wants us to be) if we don’t act on the dreams and ideas He gives us.

    So go out there and fail people! You’ll end up getting the failures out of the way so the success can rise to the top.

  7. Terry Says:

    Sometimes people don’t act on business ideas because they have no capital and no idea where they would get some. Ability to raise capital is often highly underrated as a business skill.

    Thomas Edison was a great and prolific inventor,l but I believe his greater genius was the ability to raise the capital required to fund his ongoing operations. The ability to fund 10,000 failed light bulb attempts and still raise capital for the next and successful attempt gets my admiration.

  8. Larry M. Says:

    What a great new angle for thinking about ideas! Most of the time, all we need to change our situation is an idea, and this is a good way to identify ideas we haven’t previously considered. And I like you suggesting 20 ideas. We used to say in the corporate world- nothing is more dangerous than a man with just one idea.

  9. Jason Garey Says:

    Love this, Dan! Thanks for the mental missile!


  10. Ben Says:

    great piece, Dan. I tell people my ideas and they just nod their heads. Uh-huh, they are saying, you go make it happen. And when it does, give me a job.

  11. Juanita Says:


    I have had many ideas; I just don’t know who to contact or how to about the process of actually creating them. My latest idea has to do with shoe laces, but I don’t know what to do.

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