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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

George Carlin Quote

Today’s quote is from the great comedian, George Carlin, who passed away Sunday.  Although this quote is less raunchy than most, it’s still not quite “G” rated…

“I got a lot of ideas.  Trouble is, most of them suck.”

Although this is a simple saying, there is some real depth to it. 

The reality is, you have a lot of ideas.  Your team has lots of ideas.  And guess what, most of those ideas do indeed stink.

And this is what stifles innovation.  As adults, we worry about our bad ideas emerging.  We don’t want to look silly, so we filter everything, including the good ideas. 

How can you stop people from filtering their ideas? 

I ask teams (during brainstorming, in particular) to strive for a “high suckiness factor.” Give me all of your bad ideas; not just your good ones.  

This serves two purposes:

  1. When you allow the bad ideas to flow, you also allow the (submerged) good ideas to emerge.  Everyone has them. They just get filtered along with all of the other ideas.
  2. Quite often, the worst idea can be the seed for a great idea.  One of the questions I like to ask a group is, “What is the funniest, craziest, or worst idea? ” After they create a list, I ask them, “How can you make that into a great idea?”

Let’s remember George Carlin by surfacing all of our buried ideas – the good, the bad, and the sucky.