Do you worry that your idea will be terrible and that worry means you don’t take action to find out?

But what if having terrible ideas is all part of having brilliant ideas?

So firstly, only you can define what your ‘terrible’ is. Why are you afraid of ‘terrible’? Is terrible aligned to failure? If you have a terrible idea it might fail? Our relationship with failing and success are closer than we might imagine. If you want to have successful ideas, you have to be prepared to embrace failing, and sometimes getting it wrong. Sometimes having a terrible idea is part of success!


Using terrible ideas as perfect learning moments

We learn more from bad ideas than we ever would if everything went to plan. The people who are successful without a bad idea, a failed try or  an error, often have little in the way of learning to help articulate how they got there. However the person who failed and got up again can share so much more, not just their journey but their lessons, thought processes and insights.

Having a terrible idea and giving it a go can be more revealing than any other time used to reflect, test and develop.

When I was made redundant, I had many terrible ideas, and some I progressed. From courses that clearly served no purpose, to ideas that I discovered I didn’t enjoy delivering. I regret none of these – even the ones that cost a fortune!

You will more often regret not giving something a try than regret doing it.

And even if you do try, and it is a terrible idea, as Daniel Pink says, you can still get something from it.


A look at the research shows that regret, handled correctly, offers three broad benefits. It can sharpen our decision-making skills. It can elevate our performance on a range of tasks. And it can strengthen our sense of meaning and connectedness.


― Daniel H Pink, The Power of Regret


Fear of making decisions

Maybe it’s as simple as the fear of making the wrong decision. That at the moment your idea, is just an idea. But you fear a bad decision will turn it into a terrible idea.

Decidophobia is a thing. If you worry about making wrong decisions, you are not alone. A study by HBR once revealed that 70% of us fear making the wrong decision so much that we don’t end up making any decision – which is in fact a decision in itself!

If it’s the decision you fear, explore the fear deeper. What is the worst that could happen? What is the best thing that could happen? Lifting yourself out of the detail and into the possibility will help you see your idea through a fresh lens.


Play with your idea

In our Another Door programmes, we always encourage people to play with ideas and concepts. You do not have to have a fully formed plan to act on it. Finding ways to play with your ideas can help you understand the idea, how it could work for you and how it could work for your clients.


The double hump theory

You need to deliberately look for terrible ideas to help you form brilliant ideas. The double-hump model demonstrates what usually happens in ideation sessions. You get all the obvious ideas first, energy is high, and then follows a slump. You can keep going through the filter of ‘good ideas’ or you can change the energy by focusing on generating ‘bad ideas’.

Quite often we get stuck in our idea. We start to close off opportunity and possibility by putting up limitations around our idea. So to stop us from missing out on other ideas, it’s good practice to step outside of our idea and actively explore bad ideas (the second hump).

Bad ideas hold wisdom as much as good ideas. An investigation further into why something is a bad idea often provides deeper insight into things to avoid, watch outs, or things people haven’t thought about before.


Bad idea, great concept

There is a difference between the what and the how. Your idea might be a How, which hasn’t quite hit the mark of the What. So it’s not about an idea delivering on a defined goal, it’s about understanding what the bigger picture is as well.

Just because an idea proves to be bad doesn’t mean that the concept that inspired it is. Take flying, for instance. A lot of flying fail ideas came before the first Wright Brothers’ flight. The ideas may have been impracticable, but the concept certainly wasn’t. But without the ones that tried, there might not be the ones that succeed.


Sifting for idea gold

Good ideas are like gold, and in the same way you have to pan for them. You often have to sift through a whole load of bad ideas before you find the good one glinting before your eyes! Nobody finds gold until they’ve done their time sifting through the ore. In the same way you rarely have that great idea before you’ve actively considered and discarded the bad ones.


Try it out now – spend 10 minutes thinking of terrible ideas

If you intentionally focus on the most terrible ideas that spring to mind, it’s a great way of unleashing creative thinking which can then be used to examine how a terrible idea can be transformed into a good one when looking at the issue from the other side of the coin.

Terrible ideas and brilliant ideas live side by side; you can’t have one without the other. The person who is unafraid to embrace their terrible idea is the person mostly likely to succeed with their brilliant one.

So – what’s your best terrible idea? Maybe it’s time to embrace it and all the good things that come afterwards.


A terrible idea is just the start

A terrible idea is a work in progress towards a great one. Don’t beat yourself up about it, at least you’re having ideas, which is a far better position to be in than not having any ideas at all – whether they’re good, bad or indifferent!

Eleanor Tweddell is running a 5-week experience to help you go from No Idea to THE idea and making it happen. For more information visit