If you think about the title of this article, Are stupid ideas a waste of time?, of course you would say “Yes, they sure are.” But, I would argue that they are not. Stupid ideas are not a waste of time, in fact, they are very valuable in my opinion!
How could it be?
Have you ever heard of brainstorming? Do you know what that is? For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, brainstorming is a process of thinking of all kinds of ideas. The best way for a brainstorming session to be conducted is to have a group of people, maybe 6 to 10 people or so. You agree in advance that all ideas will be considered relevant, nothing is stupid (no matter how stupid it really is!), in other words, nobody will be teased or belittled for any idea that they throw out, even if it is rather senseless. Set a time for the brainstorming session, let’s say 10 minutes, or 20 minutes. Set a topic. Let’s say that you are going to have a brainstorming session trying to come up with a new product for your company to start making. Then, everybody just throws out every idea that comes into their head. You don’t come up with an idea then think it over, consider how good or bad it might be, you just blurt it out when it comes into your mind. The leader of the brainstorming session writes the idea down, and then other people blurt out their ideas. When the brainstorming session is over (at the agreed time deadline), then the group considers the merit of each idea. The interesting thing that happens is that none of the ideas may be found to have merit, but maybe combinations of multiple ideas, or slight variations of ideas might be found to be perfect!
I remember when I was a kid, my Dad worked in the paper industry. He was an engineer, and later moved into management in the industry, and he was quite successful. I vividly remember my Dad had a joke that was a picture drawn on a piece of paper, it was a design for a new toilet paper recycling machine. Actually, it was obviously a joke, because the way it was designed, you would re-use toilet paper that had already been used, with no cleaning or processing or anything. Obviously, if this were a serious idea, it was a stupid idea, but perhaps if the right person saw it, they may have come up with a real workable idea based on the joke, who knows?
Anyway, the thing is that as we think, or come up with ideas for things we should do or try, many of the ideas we come up with are stupid, or unworkable. There is nothing wrong with that, it is just part of the process of coming up with good ideas that will make us money or improve our lives in some way. Perhaps our good idea will improve society, or help other people. But, we would not be able to come up with good ideas if we did not go through a certain number of stupid or bad ideas in the process.
Perhaps the most valuable asset one could have is the ability to filter through the stupid ideas and discard them, while saving and refining the good ideas that are in the mix!
In my own life, when I come up with a new idea, I often think that it is a good idea, something valuable that will improve my life in some way. Then I start thinking it over, and I often feel after a day or so that the idea is not workable, it turns out it was just a stupid idea. The good thing, though, is that as I think about the idea, sometimes that thought that comes from the stupid idea spawns new good ideas that I never would have even considered if not for my pondering about the idea that was actually stupid!
So, stupid ideas are not a waste of your time. They are a breeding ground for good ideas, and are actually a necessary step that you must go through in the thinking process. We all get stupid ideas. The key is in being able to recognize that it is just another stupid idea, and to discard it before you invest too much time or money in it. And, also, being able to use that stupid idea to spawn other ideas which are actually quite good!