Is it better to have many ideas or better ideas?

As a creative, what should you spend your ideation time on: having many mediocre ideas, or having just a handful of quality ideas?

It’s a daunting question for any of us, but one that we have to address if we want to grow more creative and, on the longer end of things, be successful. Consider a modern shoe maker, who is destined to create “the most comfortable running shoe ever.”

The shoe maker decides to dedicate herself to one perfect concept of a shoe, so she gets to work, sketching out a design in a few hours. Once the drawing is done she immediately evaluates it, looking at each aspect and questioning its design and functionality. She makes small changes to her original design and already an entire day has passed her by.

Within a few days, after she’s begun to create a model of the shoe, she starts to doubt her original concept. She finds herself stumbling into small, unforeseen obstacles in the design, and as a result she goes back to the original sketch and tweaks the idea more.

After a few weeks the shoe designer is still struggling with her design, but in-fact it is no longer a single, “better” design that she is left with. The alterations she made to the original concept have begun to look more and more like alternate ideas, some much further from the original concept than others. Various sketches and notes lie scattered around her desk, her first idea nowhere to be found.

As a result, the shoe maker spent a number of weeks pursuing a perfect idea but ended up with a few less-than-mediocre ideas anyway.

It would have been arguably a better use of the shoe makers time to dedicate herself to brainstorming many ideas for a shoe, where she could then look at each and see if any stood out and combine the ideas that did.

For any creative field it’s the same: dedicate yourself to first coming up with many ideas, then – and only after you’ve had the time to really consider a large multitude of ideas – worry about the quality.By focusing on having many ideas, you’ll save yourself time and kick your creative thinking into overdrive.

To quote the famous author and chemist Linus Pauling: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas, and throw away the bad ones.”

Photo by photosteve101.