Trouble coming up with a really good idea?
How about coming up with a really bad idea?
When you’re stumped for creative ideas to solve a problem, sometimes thinking about how to make the problem worse will actually help.
In order to get really good at pounding in nails straight instead of bent and at angles is to practice pounding in a lot of nails. You need to pound a lot of nails in wrong before you get good at pounding them in correctly.
The same goes for coming up with ideas.
You’re going to have to come up with a lot of bad ideas before you get adept at coming up with good ideas.
Let’s say you’re trying to come up with ideas for the Crayola company.
They want to brainstorm concepts for a new product that will help promote awareness of living a healthy lifestyle for for pre-teen children — and you’re stumped.
A good way to get your brain kickstarted would be to think of the worst possible solution to their creative challenge. What product idea would be diametrically opposed to helping young kids develop healthy habits?
You can’t get much worse than cigarettes, right??
They come in packs of 8, 16, 24, and 64 (just like their crayon box counts). The pack design is bright yellow framed with green triangles and it looks just like Crayola’s classic crayon box. The paper rolled around the tobacco of each cigarette carries the familiar wavy line you’re used to seeing around the top and bottom of a Crayola crayon, and the paper of each one is colored to match a classic Crayola color.
Now that would be a truly horrendous idea for Crayola.
It connects their valuable family brand with a disgusting and smelly habit, and is about as far away from inspiring a healthy lifestyle as you can get!
How can you take this bad idea and turn it into a good idea?
Well, the idea of wrapping a non-crayon item in the familiar crayon wrapper was pretty solid. And the classic box design positively screams Crayola. We just need something healthy to wrap and box instead of those cancer sticks.
Hmmm… “cancer sticks” sounds a little like “carrot sticks” and those are really healthy — and kids love ’em.
What if we packaged carrot sticks like a box of crayons?
A pack of eight would make a perfect after-school snack or fun addition to a kid’s lunchbox. But carrots are traditionally orange in color and we’d want a Crayola product to contain more than a single color in a box. What if we also included celery sticks so we’d have a green color? Maybe apple slices with the skin on to include red? There are also bell peppers in yellow. Can’t think of anything blue… but a quick Google of different color vegetables turns up a type of purple carrot that looks awesome…
See how taking a seemingly wrong turn can get you back on track?
The bad ideas came to mind quickly because they didn’t matter. You weren’t going to be able to use them. The pressure was off to think of a “perfect” idea because you just needed to think of a lousy idea.
Once the bad idea was fleshed out, you were able to build on some of the elements in order to think up something much better. It’s always easier to build an idea on the foundation of another concept (even if that concept appears to be completely unacceptable) because it gives you something to get the ball rolling — you’re not pulling an idea out of thin air — and that’s what makes it easier to “nail down” a really good idea.