First off, what the hell’s an Idea Ratio? It’s the number of ideas required to produce a great one. What’s your guess on how many ideas are needed for a single, great one?
Here’s a hint, it’s a lot.
It’s somewhere on the order of 2,000 to 1. Good and bad ideas breed great ones. Said differently, volume of ideas matters, as more ideas = more great ones.
Toy manufacturers start with 4,000 ideas to produce 200 working prototypes, 12ish released commercially and 2 or 3 solid successes.
Your exact ratio will differ but it’s on this magnitude. It ain’t 2 or 10 or even 20, which means you probably need way more ideas in your ideal pile.
The only way to do this is having an Idea factory, a process. One that supersedes individual staff as they come and go.
Creative is a process. Enter Billy Blaze, the Michael Keaton character from Night Shift. Billy was a self-proclaimed idea man, always carrying a mini tape recorder to capture his constant, spontaneous, nutty ideas. He had a process.
His ideas ranged from running a prostitution ring out of the morgue (genius if only because they pulled it off) to making paper edible to eliminate garbage and one of my all-time faves, feeding the tuna mayonnaise to short-circuit the mayo mixing ordeal.
Most ideas won’t pan out as the ratio and Billy make clear. You’ve got to expect a lot of low quality ideas, most of which will stay that way, a few of which might turn into greatness. A key is treating every idea as a mere starting point.
Fortunately for us, our Billy Blaze now comes in a user-friendly, very accessible, low cost AI wrapper. We’ve got a highly adaptable, trainable idea factory a few mouse clicks away.
But, be leary of a few human biases that can get in the way of an “always-on” brainstorm mindset and derail your process and motivation.
- Pressure to find an idea versus a good one. Brainstorm sessions quickly latch on to a viable, probably low effort idea with eye darts thrown at anyone who keeps throwing out more ideas instead of quickly moving to implementation talk.
- The belief that ideas are a limited stockpile. This is referred to as the creative cliff illusion and it’s magnified by the incorrect view that the good ideas are front-loaded, causing people to stop “ideating” at the exact time the ideas are getting better.
- The anchoring bias or tendency to have the first few ideas steer the rest of the thinking.
And to close the loop, here are a few ways to combat the barriers.
- Fewer people. Three’s company, six or more is a crowd.
- Experience, expertise or both as criteria for participation.
- Ask each person to submit a few ideas in advance.
- Have participants review each idea with “No, and [suggest an alternative].
- Then have them review each idea with “Yes, and [an extension on the idea]
- End the group session after the initial idea round, do not rank or sort.
- Do individual review of ideas create your top set, including continuing to edit and refine.
- Feed the list to AI to sort and categorize, then have AI create pros and cons for each categorization using your business constraints (e.g. time, money, risk tolerance, urgency)
- Reconvene the group to review