I wish I had more good ideas, I don’t know how to find them

Negative Ideation


The Context

Creativity is about using volume and consistency to impact probability. It’s kind of like fishing. You can’t walk down to the lake and predict how many fish you’re going to catch. Too many factors outside of your control affect catch level, from the weather to the water complexity to the number of other fisherman present. All you can do is just keep showing up every day and try to increase your chances of reeling a big one in. And so, the creative process, for all of its magical and mysterious qualities is largely a numbers game. The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. Even bad ones. Especially bad ones. Matter of fact, you can’t even get to the good ones without bad ones.

The Tool

two color

Negative Ideation

NEGATIVE IDEATION -- Stretch your imagination through the positive power of bad ideas

Unlike a lot of areas in life, when it comes to personal creativity management, quantity trumps quality. You have to keep returning to that stupid lake, day after day, whether you reel in a big one or not. Because that’s what creative people do. They keep coming back to the water. Every day.

Here’s one of my favorite bad ideas. Tens of thousands of sexual harassment incidents are filed each year. And those are just the reported cases. But all of this sexual harassment training doesn't move the needle. Perhaps we're pushing this issue in the wrong direction. Skinergy is my new corporate team building firm that specializes in facilitating workplace orgies. Our team of organizational psychologists and professional sex workers help your executives and employees bond through the radical transparency and extreme intimacy of group sex. Accelerate group trust, communication, collaboration and problem solving, by sucking and fucking every single one of your coworkers. After all, it's not harassment if there's a whiteboard, right? Skinergy gives new meaning to the phrase, take one for the team. Now, clearly, my corporate training idea is physically, legally, morally and organizationally reprehensible. Even if all of your coworkers were gorgeous and promiscuous, having an orgy with them would almost certainly destroy morale. At the very least, it would make lunch the next day pretty awkward. But despite the badness of that idea, the process of considering it is fundamentally good. What kinds of interesting conversations might that idea start? How much would people’s brains, in additional to their orifices, stretch in ways that wouldn’t happen with a more mediocre idea?

The Rest

Carlin would do this when writing and performing his comedy routines. He would find out where the line was that the culture was drawing at the time, and then deliberately cross it. And bring the audience with him across the line to enjoy the experience. What he learned was, the audience didn’t always want go to those thematic places initially. But once they arrived, not only did they laugh when they got there, but they were glad he took them there. Does that mean company orgies are the answer? Probably not. But the human brain is like a metal alloy that, once yielded, will never return to his original shape. And that’s a good thing. You need bad ideas to reach that point.

The Benefits

Make peace with the lack of control in your creative journey
Find more joy in the ideation process regardless of outcome
Generate work that is more surprising and provocative
Using the volume and consistency of your creative practice to increase the probability of find more good ideas

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