Leadership creativity exercise
Worst Possible Idea
Brief description of creativity technique
Worst possible idea is an excellent creativity tool to support team spirit and original common decisions. The group should consist of 3-6 people. A timer should be set for five minutes and the worst ideas one can think of should be brainstormed. Then the brainstorming should start by answering questions, such as: What are the worst ways to solve this problem that could be used? What are some unethical products or services we could create? What are some terrible taglines for our campaign?
Ideas should be looked back and reflected to see if there are any you can turn into a good idea with a little work.
Exercise for skills at the level of:
Learning objectives of the exercise
Worst possible idea is particularly useful in situations where personal confidence is to be supported and communication barriers that prevent creativity processes should be handled.
Main benefits of using worst possible idea:
- facilitating the ideation processes at a point when other methods will not lead to the desired results and a stuck feeling arises in the group;
- generating novel solutions by pushing teams beyond the safe and status quo;
- particularly useful in situations when there is some kind of tension in the group that makes classical brainstorming ineffective;
- it stimulates ‘combinatorial creativity’: the dissonance of a bad idea prompts the brain to reorient and redesign until a related “good” idea pops out: “Often it’s only when comparing two ideas that the best idea – a hybrid of the two – is discovered.”, Scott Bercun (https://scottberkun.com/essays/21-designing- on-both-sides-of-your-brain/)
- greatly benefit from unconventional ways of thinking and unexpected outcomes;
- supports keeping a wide pool of inspirations to draw from in the generation of new ideas (“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”, Thomas Edison; “The physicist’s greatest tool is his wastebasket.”, Albert Einstein);
- facilitates challenging assumptions – every bad idea reveals an alternative way of thinking and illustrates important aspects of the problem that may have been overlooked;
- utilizes the principle that one idea leads to another, bad ideas lead to good ones, sometimes in ways we could never have imagined. This technique provides disruptive insights within the ideation process;
Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise
In person: 1 hour
Online: 1 hour synchronous
How many people are needed?
This exercise is most effective in small groups: 3-6 people
In person: sketch paper, pen/pencil, template, whiteboard
Online: internet access, devices, template
Instructions for conducting the exercise
1. The group should consist of 3 – 6 people.
2. The challenge you’re trying to solve should be written on a post-it.
3. A timer should be set for five minutes and the worst ideas one can think of should be brainstormed. Prompts like:
- “What are the worst ways to solve this problem?” could be used.
- “What are some unethical products or services we could create?”
- “What are some terrible taglines for our campaign?” could be used.
Take the pressure off by letting your worst ideas flow.
4. Ideas should be looked back at and reflected on. Are there any you can turn into a good idea with a little work?
Case study from desk research
What may have started as “bad ideas” in brainstorming sessions sometimes appear as an actual product. A famous example is Philippe Starck’s “Gun Lamp” done for Flos in 2005. The Gun lamp collection was designed for FLOS by Philippe Starck. FLOS is a shining brand that manufactures contemporary designs by noted designers in the industry. The gun lamp collection is one of the most debated. Philippe Starck in 2005 created this beautiful collection of gun lamps. The bodies are made with a die-cast aluminum form with an over-molded polymer coating in chrome/gold finish. The guns are also available in a golden version (coated in an 18-karat gold-plated finish). The gold and silver of the weapons represent the collision between money and war.
Each of the lamps in the Flos Guns Collection is made up of various parts of die-cast aluminum, the interior of the black version is gold and silver for the white shade. A silkscreen arrangement of crosses than reminds us of our dead ones. The Flos Guns Collection table lamp features the shape of an AK47 gun sitting atop an integrated round disc base. On this disk, you can easily read the phrase “happiness is a hot gun”, this is an obvious reference to the Beatles’ “warm gun” lyrics from their 1968 White Album. These words may be associated with “hot” in the context of both lamp (the heat generated from illumination) and gun (the heat generated from being fired). “Nowadays we kill – religiously, militarily, civilly, indeed very civilly sometimes. We kill out of ambition, out of greed, for the fun of it or of the show. Republics turn bananas. Tyrants are our masters, designed, manufactured, sold, dreamed, purchased, and used, weapons are our new icons. Our lives are only worth a bullet. The Guns Collection is nothing but a sign of the times.“ Philippe Starck. “Design is my weapon,” says Starck. First sight of these lamps provokes shock due to the imagery used – with all that guns have come to stand for: violence, war, and suffering, and disgust at having such a powerful symbol turned into a meek and mild domestic object.
(source: https://florencedesignschool.it/gun-lamp-collection-by-phi lippe-starck/; http://www.stmargaretshigh.org.uk/index_276_25863127 35.pdf)
This is an example of how the inventor of the technique Bryan Mattimore used it during a brainstorming session.Bryan opened a session for bankers by saying “I’d like you to come up not with good ideas for marketing your bank and its financial products, but with the worst ideas you can think of. These ideas could be stupid, crazy, or even illegal. Have fun! Push yourself to come up with really bad ideas.” After a very long, intimidating pause, one bold soul suggested “Well, we could close the bank at noon instead of 3:00” Everyone laughed. Banker humor. Followed by, “We could double the ATM fees!” More laughter. Bad ideas started flowing. “Here’s a really bad idea,” said one banker. “We could round down everyone’s deposits to the nearest dollar. Most people probably wouldn’t notice.” Said another, “Let’s make mistakes in their favor, give everyone extra money every time they make a transaction. Now that’s a bad idea!” More laughter,” but if you’ve ever seen the Bank of America “keep the change” savings program, perhaps it began in this session.
— Bob Dorf writing about Bryan Mattimore(source: https://www.inc.com/bob-dorf/to-find-a-great-idea-try-look ing-for-the-worst-ide.html)
This case has been discussed in Mattimore’s book “Idea Stormers. How to lead and inspire creative breakthroughs”, 2012