Bad ideas to stimulate good ones: Monkeys making helicopters ~ Brand Mix

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bad ideas to stimulate good ones: Monkeys making helicopters

Good Idea/Bad Idea by Fredo Alvarez (Flickr)
Mr. Skullhead is a character from the animated television series Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs. He would feature in a short segment called "Good Idea/Bad Idea." He would first perform a mundane task uneventfully and then be asked to perform a similar task with one crucial detail changed to make it a bad idea. (Good Idea: Having breakfast served to you in bed. Bad Idea: Having tennis balls served to you in bed.) Every time Mr Skullhead did the bad variation of the first activity he'd suffer one way or another.

But what if you reverse the flow? Turns out the entertainment industry uses this approach to stimulate creativity. As described by Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) in the Wall Street Journal:
I spent some time working in the television industry, and I learned a technique that writers use. It's called "the bad version." When you feel that a plot solution exists, but you can't yet imagine it, you describe instead a bad version that has no purpose other than stimulating the other writers to imagine a better version.

For example, if your character is stuck on an island, the bad version of his escape might involve monkeys crafting a helicopter out of palm fronds and coconuts. That story idea is obviously bad, but it might stimulate you to think in terms of other engineering solutions, or other monkey-related solutions. The first step in thinking of an idea that will work is to stop fixating on ideas that won't. The bad version of an idea moves your mind to a new vantage point.
He then proceeds to demonstrate how his own bad ideas (on his chosen subject of taxing the rich) really do help make you think of better ideas. I think it's a great technique and I'm going to try it the first chance I get. I'll report back if that turns out to be a bad idea.

1 comment:

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