Ben Meisner is the founder of the leading online photo editing platform Ribbet.com.
Brainstorming, with its foundation in boundless creativity, should contain ideas that are as wild and absurd as possible, especially in the beginning. I strongly believe that brainstorming should accommodate those ideas that at first glance seem silly, outrageously expensive, or simply take far too much time or resources to practically implement.
The absurdly impractical should not only be included in the process, but is absolutely essential to its success. Often the ideas we are left with at the end of the process, which are practical and brilliant in their own right, are piggybacked on less realistic ideas earlier in the brainstorming process and would never have existed otherwise.
In my opinion, pragmatism only needs to come into the conversation once mature ideas have been analyzed for feasibility. Otherwise, if applied too early and too rigidly, the creative process will not be effective. When looking for new ideas, there are four principles I follow.
1. Go for the ultimate solution.
When brainstorming, consider everything. Rather than throwing ideas away because they’re unfeasible, dive deep into imaginative exploration. When the mobile phone was invented in 1973 it offered a talk time of 30 minutes, took 10 hours to charge and today cost the equivalent of $10,000! The technological hurdles were so high that if they had been the sole focus, today we wouldn’t have our phones that we rely so heavily on.
List each idea. Even though you may not have the answer on how to practically implement all of them now, the final idea may end up being something without needing those answers. That is, the problems may disappear by themselves with new ideas arising from early ideas.
2. Let go of the fear of failure.
I believe that in the modern education system and parenting norms we have been brought up from an early age to find the “right” answer as soon as possible. We’ve learned to find an opinion and make it our own, not to cherish all aspects of an argument, but instead to quickly identify and defend our “truth.” Thus, our speech and our thinking are led along a narrow path of right versus wrong, where there is a fear of being wrong.
Sometimes I feel that we are so afraid of failure that we often find it difficult to give even new ideas the space to be heard. It is normal to be afraid of losing money, time and resources and of risking instability. But letting go of this fear and embarking on an untapped journey can yield the greatest reward. By embracing uncertainty, we can create systems that grow from shock to resilient and, as a result, destined to thrive.
In my opinion, fear of failure and of change can destroy the joy of brainstorming. Trying to play it safe can lead to mediocre solutions, so forget to be right and challenge your risk threshold.
3. Bring the reality into the process – at the end!
That part of your mind that considers risks and takes on challenges is, in my opinion, essential to the brainstorming process. Pragmatism can be destructive when it eliminates new ideas before they have a chance to grow and develop, but in the later stages of brainstorming it comes to the fore and center. The ability to identify and address risks will lead to the ultimate solution.
If you come across an idea that is exciting and promising, its feasibility should be considered before ending the process. Understanding the problems you’re trying to solve is critical, and getting feedback from relevant people can help. Note that this feedback is about identifying and clarifying the challenges that lie in your idea, not about seeking feedback directly on possible solutions to those challenges. The solutions must lie in your own creative strength and vision.
4. Know your limits.
Last but not least, be aware of your limitations. Exciting ideas with real potential can be realized with the support of relevant experts. Even if you don’t have all the answers yet, you may be able to find them by talking to the right people.
I am convinced that our creative power as human beings is limitless. As a race, we have traveled an incredible road of innovation and invention, standing on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us. To continue that journey, I think we need to strike a balance between the right time for imagination and pragmatism. That way we can explore new horizons while staying aware of the problems we need to solve and the resources we have to get there.
Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.