Imagine a football coach marking out areas for exercises. He’s whistling away as he innocently lays out those cheap, plasticky little UFO-cones. But, with every cone he picks from his mesh sack and lays out, one of the annoying little kids sneaks behind him and puts it back in the bag. Cone after cone he places delicately on the astro, cone after cone the kids pick it back up. After five minutes of graft, he looks up to get the lay of the land, and he’s got nothing. Not a marker on the ground. Everything he put out there – gone.
This is what happens when you have a ‘nae sayer’ in a brainstorm. The aptly-named devil’s advocates may be trying to help, but ideas, especially freshly-born ones, need space to breathe. They’re barely formed, and someone’s already saying they’re not right.
These delicate little ideas need to be nurtured, cultivated, and actively grown in a safe place – a creative greenhouse where nothing is thrown away.
Editing while you’re still coming up with the ideas is a very dangerous game.
Imagine opening your Lego pirate ship set and throwing away bits that don’t immediately look useful. Then, when you get to the end, you realise you needed all those unassuming little pieces to actually hold the mast up and set the sails.
It might not be immediately clear why an idea is relevant, or where it’s going to go, but even if you’re taking a line from that idea you were gonna chuck, or a word, or a ghost of a whisper of a rumour of a thought. It still deserves its place at the table.
Original ideas are messy. They don’t arrive the right way up. Quite often they don’t even have an obvious start, or end, or shape.
Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull described them as “ugly babies” that “are not beautiful, miniature versions of the adults they will grow up to be. They are truly ugly: awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete”.
But with an open mind and a little patience, an idea can go anywhere.
John Steinbeck said “Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” And this guy won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Whatever you do, don’t be the fireman at the BBQ dousing the glowing coals before we even get a sniff of a sausage.
Stay positive and let ideas do their own thing. You’ll be surprised where they go.