How to Move from Bad Ideas to Breakthrough Ideas


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I came across this reel on Instagram and loved the story and wanted to share it with you all. You can watch the reel here.

While the story itself is better told by Dr. Caroline Brookfield in the reel, I wanted to share other things that I learnt watching and listening to the story and wanted to share that with you.

So, here we go:

Lesson 1: The importance of Psychological Safety

The person who shared the idea about poking people’s eye was able to share the idea (which eventually led to the breakthrough idea) because that person felt that it was ok to share such an obviously bad idea.

In some organisations, some people might be able to share their ideas, irrespective of the culture of the team. However, most people need to trust that the brainstorming space was a safe space for them to contribute and share their ideas.

It is our responsibility as leaders to create and nurture trust amongst the team, which could then give them the confidence that they are in a safe space for them to share their ideas.

Lesson 2: Extreme Ideas Lead to Breakthrough Ideas

Having facilitated 100’s of brainstorming sessions to help teams come up with interesting and breakthrough ideas, I have come to realise that breakthrough ideas are usually to be found at the other side of discussing extreme ideas.

It is extremely easy to make an already extreme idea and tone it down to make it viable and yet keep it interesting. It is equally tough to take an average idea and make it interesting and viable.

The same can be said about extreme constraints as well. I have realised that our brains are usually lazy and need to be nudged to come up with breakthrough thinking. So, when confronting a regular situation, it usually comes up with regular ideas. When you introduce extreme constraints, it is forced to do some interesting thinking.

Lesson 3: One Idea, multiple problems

I have also come to realise that the best ideas are the one’s that are able to solve not just one challenge or problem but multiple problems.

In the story that Dr. Caroline Brookfield shares, hiring the visually impaired people to do the packaging solves multiple problems. It gives work to otherwise neglected community. It improves the productivity of the packaging operation. It also improves the quality of the packaging. Three areas of improvement by implementing one idea.

The question then is the following – can we engineer or craft ideas that can provide multiple benefits or solve multiple problems. In my experience, it is definitely possible to do that, if we are intentional about this and look at the possibilities of the ideas being discussed and use our imagination and curiosity to explore what more can be done by tweaking the idea a little bit.

In conclusion:

In conclusion, I would say that most brainstorming sessions are a waste of time, energy and effort as hardly little that comes out it them gets implemented.

If we really want to improve this significantly, we need to change the way we run these brainstorming sessions. We need to get people to go beyond their lazy ways of thinking to creative ways of thinking by either introducing extreme constraints or by inciting extreme ideas (good or bad).

There is just one last lesson that I learn from this story is that before we discard any idea as a bad idea, it is worthwhile to explore if there is a way for us to transform it into a breakthrough idea. This requires a bit of judgement, experience and deep understanding of the problem that is being solved.

There are similar stories about other atypical people being employed in organisations where they their disabilities became their strengths. Before discarding any idea as a bad idea, think if there is an opportunity hidden within the bad idea.

If done well, we can start getting breakthrough ideas more often than we currently do. Think about how much of an impact it can make to your team’s performance.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mukesh Gupta
I currently work for SAP as Customer advocate. In this capacity, I am responsible to ensure that the voice of the customer is being heard and play the bridge between customers and SAP. Prior to joining SAP, I have worked with different organizations serving in different functions like customer service, logistics, production planning & sales, marketing and business development functions. I was also the founder-CEO of a start-up called "Innovative Enterprises". The venture was in the retail & distribution business. I blog at


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