A Proper Response to Bad Ideas

The proper response to a bad idea is a better idea. - Kevin Kelly

Our world is full of bad ideas.  I’ve contributed my fair share.  So have you.  No one has a monopoly on bad ideas.  They’re universal, unbiased and arbitrary.  Albert Einstein once said, Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.  So let’s get over ourselves and admit that we simply aren’t as smart as we think we are.

However, this doesn’t mean that we’re hopelessly relegated to a world of bad ideas.  You and I both know that our world is also full of good and even great ideas.  We also know that these great ideas come from people, human beings just like us.  We commend those who come up with great ideas with any sort of consistency and describe them as genius or brilliant.  But the truth is, great ideas usually come from moments of inspiration.  And, most often, moments of inspiration are the result of the long and arduous process of working to make a better idea out of a bad one.

We see the moments when they receive their Nobel’s and Pulitzer’s and we watch as they captivate us on ted.com but what we don’t often see are the long, lonely hours spent researching, experimenting, reworking, crafting, fine-tuning, failing, etc.  We celebrate and desire the glamorous moments of triumph for ourselves but so few of us are willing to put in the hours and the labor.  So instead, we take the easier route.  We find the bad, the wrong and the imperfect in the hard work of another and we appoint ourselves commentators.  We critique and criticize because it makes us feel like we’re part of the conversation and gives us the false sense that we’re actually contributing to moving the dialogue forward.  While constructive criticism can be helpful, it’s not enough.  Like Kevin Kelly says, the proper response to a bad idea is a better idea.  

So let’s stop criticizing just to be heard.  Let’s stop huddling up in our lazy circles, mocking those who took the risk of putting an idea out there, shallowly affirming each other with our negative judgments.  Let’s stop talking about how much better something should be.  Instead, let’s start dreaming about how much better it could be and then go about the difficult work of making it a reality.  Let’s not just make ideas better – let’s make each other better.  Let’s collectively, humbly and passionately pursue a better world together.

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