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Why Sh*t Ideas Are The Manure You Need To Grow Great Ones

If we’re always striving for perfection and looking for the right answer, how are we ever supposed to find the magic in messing up?

October 23, 2020
filmmaker stages of reaching a good idea

We’ve all been there. Heart racing, palms clammy, eyes darting around the room as you hope that now is the time the receptionist comes in to take your lunch order (cheese, no pickle). But no, not this time. Everyone in the office stares at you, waiting for your answer.

“Umm.. how about red?”, you stammer.

You wait for the cacophony of laughter you just know is coming. Red? Are you stuck in the 90’s? Suddenly, Karen chimes in:

“Red looks too classic, how about orange?”

And the brainstorming continues. Your ‘bad’ idea has been forgotten and it’s on to the next.

From a young age we’re taught to avoid failure. It’s instilled in us that there must be only one correct answer. Test papers are designed to give us only one solution for success. But when in your life has that ever rung true?

We often have to take a series of wrong turns to arrive at the correct destination. At our small but perfectly formed video production agency here in Brighton, we believe in the brilliance of a bad idea. We think that it’s actually quantity that leads to quality. The perfect example comes from Netflix sensation, Madmen. In the series, we see businessman Don Draper pitching an ad concept for ketchup to the Heinz team that opts to not show the product itself… or use the word ketchup. It’s meant to represent a bad idea – Team Heinz hate it, and it’s binned. But guess what? The real-world Heinz team loved it! They recognised the big bucks in the ads’ play on brand recognition and adopted it for a massively successful campaign in 2017.

The concept of “wrong thinking” is coined by Bryan Mattimore, co-founder of the Growth Engine Company. Beyond even bad thinking, this methodology pushes the boundaries of stupidity to encourage creatives to produce utterly outrageous ideas. Put into practice, this method has achieved magnificent results. At the National Gallery of Art, they gathered a group to come up with ideas to transform the visitor experience.

To start with only the wild and whacky were accepted: “Cans of spray paint next to the artworks. Glitter bombs in the galleries. Pony rides in the lobby. Free skateboards available at the Information Desk.” Ridiculous, sure, but creative in their chaos. By reversing one participants’ ‘bad idea’ – requiring absolute silence in the gallery space – the team ended up developing a prototypal platform encouraging visitors to communicate more and share their reflections on their visits.

At, we choose to work on our video production creative using “levels”, building on the bad to reach the brilliant. Beginning with a brainstorm we shout out the most obvious, mundane and basic video idea proposals. We say:

“Ok, so that’s level 1… what does level 2 look like?”

From each thought there’s normally at least one tiny golden thread… which we keep pulling at till it leads us to a golden fleece. By this time we might have developed our video concept from a woman eating baked beans to a giant baked bean eating a woman!

So, what is it about bogus ideas that we think are just so banging, and why should you encourage failure in your workplace?

  1. Quality is subjective: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all. What one person may think sounds boring may be the piece of the puzzle your colleague has been searching for. It may even inspire them to come up with something new!
  2. It builds trust between your team and puts them at a level playing field: If everyone in the office is contributing the same silly solutions, no idea is better than the other. This does away with fear and encourages collaboration.
  3. Creativity is messy: Why do you think they encourage messy play in primary school? Because it leads to the most weird and wonderful creations, that’s why! Plus, it can force you out of a creative rut.

A quick Google of bad ads will leave you laughing at the magnificence that can come from a mistake. Lest we forget that ever fateful night that saw the hashtag #susanalbumparty, used for Susan Boyle’s album release, trending worldwide on Twitter, garnering far more attention than her dulcet tones were likely to do under normal circumstances. Or Coke’s 1985 launch for ‘New Coke’, which flopped, but ended up boosting sales of classic coke tenfold as consumers remembered just how much they loved it’s sugary goodness. If we’re always striving for perfection and looking for the right answer, how are we ever supposed to find the magic in messing up?

At, we elevate bogus -> banging.

Interested in how we could brainstorm for your brand?