The enemy of all bad ideas: someone to talk to

When it comes to ideas, quantity impacts quality: the more ideas you have, the more likely you are to have a good idea.

However, if you are going to avoid the trap of thinking that some of your bad ideas are actually good (which is a trap we all fall into from time-to-time), you need to have someone you can rely on for honest feedback.

We all have bad ideas. Einstein thought the universe was static. It may be worthwhile to try and have less bad ideas, but it’s futile to try and constantly have only good ones.

The reasons for bad ideas are often complex: we don’t fully understand the context of what our idea entails, we misunderstand it, we’re too optimistic about aspects of it, or we’re thinking too short-term or long-term about it.

One of those points creates a huge problem for even the most successful and intelligent among us: sometimes we don’t know when a bad idea is bad (and that’s bad). By fighting for a bad idea, or working diligently on an idea that is doomed from the start, we waste time, energy, and even a little piece of ourselves—in the form of ego.

To combat this common shortfall of identifying bad ideas, we need to get used to sharing our ideas early and often, at least to one other person we can rely on to give us open and honest feedback.

Author Scott Berkun details how explaining the reasoning behind an idea to someone else can help us identify holes in our thinking or reasons why the idea might be bad:

“Your best defense starts by breaking an argument down into pieces. When [you] say ‘It’s obvious…’ [They] say, 'Hold on. You’re way ahead of me. For me to follow I need to break this down into pieces.’ And without waiting for permission, [they] should go ahead and do so.”

Because the idea will be broken down into explorable chunks by the other person during discussion, it’s much more likely that logical problems or other issues with the idea will float to the surface.

Of course, this approach goes both ways: when someone approaches you with an idea, pause and take a moment to evaluate the reasoning behind it—breaking it down into smaller chunks you can easily understand, as necessary—in order to determine whether or not it’s really a good idea.

To better manage your bad ideas, find at least one reliable person you can count on to give you honest feedback on them and push you to develop them further when necessary or drop them when appropriate.