We work in a creative field. And to be creative, you need a certain amount of freedom. Freedom to go beyond conventional thinking. Freedom to take risks. Freedom to push past your fears. And perhaps most of all, the freedom to have bad ideas.
We’ve all been in workshops or brainstorming sessions where we’re told no idea is bad and that we shouldn’t judge whatever spews forth from our stream-of-consciousness. Then, we put a bunch of stickers on our best ideas, and the ones with the most stickers advance to the next round and often end up in the final product.
This isn’t enough. We’re missing a critical element: a merciless, heartless assault on even our favorite ideas. Because, truth be told, few of them deserve to see the light of day.
You know the inner naysayer that's critical of all the BS you come across in your daily life? Embrace it. Let it out. Give it a seat at the table.
I’m not encouraging you to be cruel to yourself or to other people. But to your ideas? Absolutely. They’re fair game. Beat them up. Cut them down. Poke fun at them. Ask yourself what kind of meme someone might make of it, how someone might trash it, who it might offend. Is it really as funny, thoughtful, edgy, uplifting, on target, yadda, yadda as you think it is?
The key is to separate the person from the idea. This can be hard to do because our ideas come from deep inside us and are personal. We get attached to them, and rightfully so. But at a certain point, our ideas take on a life of their own, and we owe it to them to prepare them to succeed on their own.
I remember one of my worst ideas -- it was spectacularly terrible. My client wanted a brand narrative film that would capture the essence of his company, and my bright idea, after listening to the CEO describe how they approached their work, was to create a film of a Flamenco dancer practicing her moves while her voiceover described how she approached her craft. How artistic and clever it would be! In describing her method, the dancer would also be speaking indirectly to the way the company approached its work.
How did it turn out? Awful.
When I watched the final cut, it made me sick. What had I done? I’ll tell you what I’d done: I’d fallen too deeply in love with my own idea. I should have been more critical -- ideally before I started shooting, and certainly during the editing process when it became obvious that it wasn’t coming together as I had hoped.
We should all take heart in the fact that everyone has bad ideas -- lots of them. And that’s OK. It's part of the process. Your ratio should be 10, 50, maybe 100 bad ideas for every good one. So, cut yourself some slack. Go back to the drawing board again and again. Tweak. Critique. Repeat. Be kind to yourself and others when you fail. And then celebrate like crazy when a good idea makes it through the gauntlet.