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There Is Such Thing As a Bad Idea


We have all heard the phrase “There is no such thing as a bad idea”. Quite frankly when my 3rd grade teacher made that statement, I just took it at face value, never asked a question and moved on, believing it. So, every idea that came out of our snot riddled noses was a good one? Then why couldn’t we have that campfire in class like little Franky Douglas wanted or why didn’t we have a candy buffet in the lunchroom like Missy Carter encouraged? I don’t know. If they are not bad ideas, then they must be good ideas, right? Then, real life happens. It’s time to put away the crayons and the pencils, well maybe not in my business but you get the point.

Every single time someone makes that statement to me now I look at them with one eyebrow raised. Not as good as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson but it gets the appropriate reaction. What is that reaction? That one eyebrow almost always is followed by an explanation of their statement where they go into detail about how even a bad idea can create conversation that may lead into a good idea. Now that I agree with however what they are saying is that there is potential for an actual bad idea. Really?

You must also understand that “now more than ever” we need to be careful. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Remember, no bad ideas, so we will all sit in this meeting and discuss every idea that is thrown out and write that idea down in our notepads and email them out with the meeting notes attached and sit forever in a conference room while these ideas are discussed at length until the next scheduled conference room meeting approaches the door and you all must leave and get back to work. Those ideas? Typically lost, forgotten about, floating aimlessly in the email abyss never to be discussed again.

Now, just bear with me for a moment. Also realize that this process I am about to share is not for the faint of heart. WARNING: The following may contain scenes of violence. Here we are again in that same conference room. Then it comes, the bad idea. Everyone except the person sharing knows it’s a bad idea and even sometimes that person knows it’s a bad idea, but they just feel that they have not been speaking up enough in these meetings. Awkward silence and nobody really knows how to address this stinker. So, there it sits in the middle of the conference room table surrounded by flies and making everyone’s stomach turn.

Usually at this point someone in leadership transitions to a change of subject or maybe a polite acceptance of said idea and mention of that making the notes to be discussed later. Even the person who came up with the idea knows that will never be discussed again. Still awkward right? We have all been in that meeting.

So, let’s confront this beast head on. Let’s take that steaming pile of idea and smash it right in the mouth. This is the part that some folks just can’t handle. You must stand your ground here, stay strong. Seriously smash it, punch it, shoot that son of bitch. In other words, ask a ton of questions that determine whether that is a good idea or just a bad one.

Does this idea speak to our target? Will they be able to understand what we are telling them? Does it make them laugh, cry, anything? Is it sustainable? Is it just a fad and if so is that good or bad? Be the pessimist and assume every idea is a bad one and beat the shit out of it. You know what? If that little cute fluffy idea has completely taken that beating, continues to stand tall in the middle of the table, bloodied and bruised but still able to hold its water then what you may have right there is actually a good idea.

Do not be afraid to hurt some feelings in this process because most of the time as you get into about round 4 or 5 of this brutal hand to idea combat even the person who came up with the idea starts to question its validity if it just curls up and dies against the pressure. Good ideas will survive, they are strong, they will accomplish the goal. Bad ideas waste time and money so don’t encourage them.

About The Author

Travis arrived at ABC back in 1995, when photography was his main creative outlet. That passion evolved over the next decade as Travis began thinking beyond imagery and pitching his broader ideas and strategies to clients. It was the birth of the idea-based marketing philosophy: Getting to know the client inside out, learning about the successes and failures, then spinning that into an idea that could build a better outcome. That’s the cornerstone he’s built his creative-first agency on since buying the place in 2005. ABC has grown exponentially since then both in terms of people and clients. Local, regional, national, banking, destinations, nonprofits: Travis has greatly expanded services over the years to accommodate them all. He’s also assembled a talented team. Just like them, he’s greeted each morning by a simple reminder etched on the wall: “Create Cool Sh!t Today!” He’s proud to run the kind of agency that does.