In the early months of my first job, I was entrusted with the daunting task of making a concept note from scratch and presenting it to the managing director. I saw this as an opportunity to make a mark.

In my first brainstorming session, I had what seemed like a brilliant idea and I was completely sold on it. My gut said it was a great idea and to go with it. I went on to create my entire presentation around this idea. My conviction in it was so blinding it didn’t even occur to me to take a second opinion.

Besides, I was determined to single-handedly deliver an impressive presentation.

I distinctly remember the day I submitted the presentation and headed for a celebratory dinner with friends. I was on my way when my boss, the managing director, got back saying, “This is a weak idea and the content is uninspiring, we will have to redo it.”

It came as a real bolt from the blue. But it also was a valuable lesson. It made me sit up and ask myself, “Did I get too attached to my first idea?”

Probably.

A piece of advice passed down to writers—both aspiring and seasoned—that I came across while reading Amitava Kumar’s Writing Badly is Easy was “murder your darlings.”

For literary purposes, it translates into always taking a second look at your writing that is critical, objective, and devoid of any sentiment or attachment to your work. This helps writers get rid of self-indulgent and extraneous passages they have written in a rush of enthusiasm.

I find this advice also applicable in the workplace when working on idea generation. Often, we get so attached to our first ideas that we have a hard time looking at them objectively or accepting critical feedback or rejection.

In their book Designing Your Life, authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans talk about how we tend to get lazy and, in a bid to solve problems quickly, surround our first ideas with a lot of “positive chemicals” that make us “fall in love” with them.

Furthermore, human beings are prone to thinking of the most obvious first, which means your initial ideas are probably not your most creative or groundbreaking.

This tendency can affect not just the workplace but many other facets of life such as making career choices. Many of us look in a single direction after college, which is often the most conventional or obvious path.

Sometimes it works out and many times it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, you feel out of control or stuck, when in reality you just didn’t spend time generating enough options for yourself.

So, when sitting on a blank canvas for generating ideas, follow some of these suggestions to be innovative and develop great ideas.

More is good, wacky is even better: 

When it comes to idea generation, more ideas mean better ideas. So, don’t censor yourself and write down as many ideas as you can come up with. Wild and whacks ideation is even better. Out-of-the-box or ‘crazy’ ideas will energize your thinking and help distinguish between the good and bad ones.

No man or woman reached the moon alone: 

No matter how driven you are to stand out as an individual contributor, brainstorming works best when different minds come together. Moreover, sharing your ideas in the initial stages and asking for feedback will help fine-tune it from the start and ensure a high-quality end product.

Come with a fresh pair of eyes: 

While feedback from others is helpful, you must approach your ideas with an objective and fresh lens. To practice this, keep your ideas away for a bit and then come back to them—sleep on it, as they say. This short break will revitalize your perspective and ensure there’s no fatigue.

It’s not just about you: 

The pitfall most idea creators encounter is getting attached to their ideas and seeing it as a reflection of their capabilities alone. Your ideas are a product of circumstances, the problem at hand, and many more factors. So, while you should own your ideas, always remember that in the workplace, we are mostly working towards a larger, shared goal. Keep asking yourself, “Is my idea contributing towards our goal or am I getting carried away because I came up with it”

Of course, it is possible that your first idea does turn out to be the best one. But in my view, it is better to go through this process of reviewing and filtering to be certain and make your success sweeter.


Explore topics such as Importance of Writing SkillsProcess of WritingWhat is Report WritingTypes of Report Writing from our Harappa Diaries blog section to build your skills for workplace success.

Saumya Seth is Manager, Special Operations at Harappa Education.

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