The best response to a bad idea is to make it better.
When I work with people from government agencies, and also those from many large corporations, they often talk about their risk-averse culture. One of the problems with risk aversion is that if someone tries out a new idea and it doesn’t work, they are punished. This leads to fewer and fewer people introducing new ideas, because the risk seems too high.
The other affect is that the people that do have good ideas will leave, and go work for organisations that are more open to new ideas.
These are big problems.
The best response to an idea that doesn’t work isn’t to punish whoever came up with it. This stifles change and growth. Here is how Kevin Kelly puts it in his new book What Technology Wants:
However, the proper response to a lousy idea is not to stop thinking. It is to come up with a better idea. Indeed, we should prefer a bad idea to no ideas at all, because a bad idea can at least be reformed, while not thinking offers no hope.
Here’s the question to ask: do our systems encourage people to build on (reform) bad ideas, or do they encourage people to stifle new ideas?
You’ll only have innovation if you are able to use bad ideas as building blocks for new, better ideas.
Note: As John noted at the end of his last post, there was substantial flooding in Brisbane last week. We’ve both been very fortunate in the floods, but many people have lost their homes or businesses. If you’re interested in contributing to flood relief in Queensland, the Premier’s Flood Appeal is probably the best bet. And the floods in Brazil are even worse – if you want to support people hit by those, Plan is a good organisation.