Agree or Disagree: All ideas are good ideas

After our talk at the RuralX Conference, the second question Mike Knutson asked everyone was what had challenged them or made them feel uncomfortable. One person said, “All ideas are good ideas.” 

That is definitely one of the things we said. We even had people practice saying, “That’s a great idea!” even when they didn’t like the idea. 

Here’s the secret to that: All ideas are good enough to test.  

Every single idea is good enough to allow the person who came up with it to test it out in a tiny and temporary way. Find the tiniest, temporariest way to test any idea anyone wants to try. 

You have to be open to new ideas, even ideas you think are stupid or impractical, because you aren’t perfect. You can’t tell which ideas will work, even if you have decades of specialized knowledge and expertise. Maybe they have a new spin that’s going to make it different this time. Maybe they’ll improvise something you’d never think of. (see also: experts vs. lots of regular people in Wisdom of Crowds) Maybe they really will fail, but maybe they need this one experience of a tiny or temporary failure to drive them on to future successes. 

If you really hate an idea, you don’t have to lie, but you also don’t have to crush other people. Crushing other people’s ideas means you’re not open to new ideas, which means you’re poorly positioning your community to prosper in the future. (see also: research from Iowa State University on openness and prosperity

Often young people will ask for something that you just know is “never gonna happen.” But you can help them scale that big idea down to something smaller that really can happen. We talk more about how to do this in our current video, Connecting with Kids.

So practice it with me. “That idea is good enough to test. How do you plan to try it out?” 

Then help them try it, or at least get out of their way. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS – For my fellow Americans, Happy Fourth of July!