Failing, to Think Straight #33 #cong18


Ideas are neither good nor bad nor even stupid. When we suspend our judgements on the thoughts in our heads that are ideas and afford them the attention they deserve, we can start to capture and process these ideas and convert them into actions. We can further develop our creativity in developing out ideas by giving ourselves the permission to fail intelligently when we try out new ideas.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Ideas are funny old things, they can be wonderful and stupid at the same time so it’s important that we suspend judgement.
  2. Literally everything we know originated as an idea
  3. Capture all ideas as soon as possible after the come to us and review all ideas together at least once a week
  4. Decide on, and carry out at least one action for each of your top 3/5 ideas giving yourself permission to fail

About Bernard Joyce:

Bernard is a founder of New Paradigms Consulting, co-founder of Geodesign Ireland and MSc Student in Management for Sustainable Development

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can contact Bernard by email, follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or read his adventures on GeoDesign

By Bernard Joyce.

Did you ever get the most wonderful idea, just out of the blue, and you get so excited that you want to drop everything and work on this idea to fruition. You rush to get home to make that phone call, send that email. You can’t wait to see how excited everybody will be. “Wow! Why has nobody ever thought of this before? This is a gamechanger” but then you start to think about the idea, “Ok, it’s not completely unique, but still”, “Well, I might just hold off on sharing the idea with anyone just yet, it does sound a bit over the top, alright”. By the time the car pulls in to the driveway, I am thinking, “What a stupid idea!”

Ideas are funny old things. They are not stupid. They are neither good and nor bad. They are just ideas, thoughts that come into our heads, often in response to a particular problem that we (or somebody else) is trying to solve but more often they are completely random thoughts that come from nowhere.

Are these ideas worthy of my attention? Yes, certainly. The wheel, the smartphone and the 99’ cone all started of as one of these thoughts.
The trick is really in how we give attention to our ideas. Like a baby crying, our ideas are often trying to tell us something, but we are not quite sure what it is. It takes a little patience and understanding.

An important first step therefore, is to suspend all judgements on ideas. There are no stupid or great or bad ideas.

Freed from the shackle of judgment, it is really important to capture all ideas. The challenge here is that ideas often come when we are least expecting them, often on a run or a walk, maybe while driving. By the time we get to note our ideas, we’ve already passed judgment, or we’ve forgotten them. It is important therefore to make capturing our ideas easy, one way is to carry a small notebook perhaps called ‘My Ideas Book’ and record every single idea that crops into my head. If we are on the move, use or phone to record a voice memo or capture a photograph. Evernote is really useful for this. The benefits of capturing ideas immediately are that we don’t need to think anymore about for the time being, freeing our mind to think of other things or to just be ‘present in the moment.’ Quantity is more important than quality at this stage so try to come up with as many ideas as possible.

The next step is, to set aside a time each week to review all ideas, get them onto paper or mind map or whatever works for us. Is there a pattern? Are my ideas trying to tell me something about myself? Watch out for ideas that keep coming back, nagging us for our attention! Are there ideas that are easy to try out straight away? Are there ideas that will stretch me? Are there ideas that get me excited?

The final crucial step is to TAKE ACTION on your top 3/5 ideas, there and then. Be prepared to fail and do so in a planned way ‘intelligent fast failure’ as opposed to ‘slow stupid failure’ (Matson 1996) or as Samuel Beckett so eloquently puts it “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.  Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”(Beckett 1995)

In actioning our ideas, we nurture our creativity thinking processes so that now we know what the babies in our head are saying.

Beckett, S. 1995. Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho.
Matson, J. V. 1996. Innovate or Die : A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation. Paradigm Press.