A starry night image with the words "love your ideas" superimposed on top

In the creative process, a little extra love for your ideas—no matter how imperfect they seem at the outset—can help them develop into something valuable.

On the flipside, don’t marry your ideas—no matter how perfect they may seem at the outset—for they will undoubtedly grow and change as part of the creative process, perhaps even into something you didn’t expect. Something you can love even more than the original.

Turning a not-great idea into a good idea

I have a book I’m working on (no, not the public speaking one). This is one about improvisation. I thought it would be cool to call it ImprovEverything. Get it? Improv Everything and Improve Everything. Pretty good and it got me pretty far in the book writing process.

But at a certain point, I started to feel constrained by it. The book wasn’t about improving (or improv’ing) everything. It was about strategically using improvisation to improve some things.

And I then came up with the idea of ” The Improv Advantage”. Now that’s better! And that’s what the book is called now. Will it still be called that in when I publish it at the end of the year? I don’t know, but I have a book drafted and a title. And it took a fun kinda goofy (and ultimately unsuitable) title to kickstart the process.

How ideas develop

I’ve lately been playing with the “Bad Idea Exercise”. This is a wonderful way to get people unlocked and creative. It’s something I’ve been using in my workshops and seminars and coaching. Basically, instead of trying to come up with good ideas (say, for a way to present your content plans for Q3, or to win back the girl of your dreams) you instead make a list of terrible ways to do that. Set a timer for five minutes and just come up with as many ideas as possible. The worse the better.

What you will end up with is a bunch of bad ideas. Hurray! That was the point. You will also find that some of these ideas can be polished into better ideas, or one of them might actually already be a great idea.

What you won’t be doing is sitting trying to come up with an idea. You’re already halfway there, thanks to this idea generation mindhack. This exercise is foolproof and fun.

Sleeping on your ideas

This is another way to get good ideas. Basically, you just think about the idea or thing you need before going to sleep at night. You won’t necessarily have it solved in the morning, but you will be closer. Your subconscious can work away on it.

I’ve been using this technique now during the course creation process I’m working on. There is a massive amount of material to marshal into order, and a ton of slides and scripts and exercises to create. I’ve spent lots of time just swimming (okay, partially drowning) in the material.

Not all of that time has been helpful, but by just putting my brain to work in watching videos, flipping through books and surfing relevant content online — and writing about it — has helped me slowly get some structure around the unwieldly mass of info. This has been both the active parts of the idea-marshaling process, and also the passive idle parts.

Have more ideas, have worse ideas, leave them be, and watch them grow.