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Off My Bookshelf IV

The Power of Bad Ideas?

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In The Many Facets of Leadership, a fascinating book of essays on leading and innovating, there’s an intriguing bit of wisdom dispensed by one Amarjit Chopra.

“Most good ideas are born bad,” he writes. “They are the end product of a process of evolution that usually starts with ideas that are impractical, half-baked, or even absurd. You can see it in many stories about well-known inventions. Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid instant camera, says the thought process that led to it started with an idea that was a joke.

“He was explaining to a child why she couldn’t see right away the pictures he was taking with a conventional camera,” adds Chopra. “When he was done, he found himself saying, ‘And that’s that, unless I could put the dark room in the camera for you.’ This playful aside set off a train of thought that eventually led to a practical way to develop film inside a camera.

“I’m convinced good ideas are born ‘bad’ because the creative side of the mind produces raw material, not finished product–ore, if you will, and not the metal in a useable form. What’s usually missing from the ‘ore’ is practicality.”

My takeaway: Make it safe for everyone to throw out the impractical, the half-baked, the absurd and celebrate them for doing it. You’ll never know where those crazy ideas will lead.

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