Skip to content

How Google Uses Bad Ideas 💣 to Innovate💡


When you hear Google, you might imagine geniuses rolling up their sleeves and saying "let's make something GREAT". But the truth is the opposite - they often start with bad, stinky, horrible ideas. 

Astro Teller is the CEO of Google X, which is often referred to as the Moonshot Factory. They create radical new technologies to solve some of the world's hardest problems, such as Waymo (self-driving cars), Wing (delivery service with drones), and so many more. 

One of the most effective approaches that Teller has found for unlocking bold and novel ideas is to come up with bad ideas. "If I say, ‘Go brainstorm good ideas,’ ” says Teller, “then people will think, ‘Oh, God, everything I say has to be a good idea.’ ” Using the word “good,” he says, puts limits on the way his team thinks. But if he specifically requests “the silliest, stupidest ideas,” people come up with crazier—and often better—solutions. These brainstorms are full of ludicrous ideas and raucous laughter, but they also yield brilliant results.

It's only by freeing ourselves from the pressure to be "normal" or serious, Teller explains, that we're able to unlock our most creative selves. He says that there’s “a voice in your head that says ‘Don’t say silly things’ ”—but that when your brain censors your silliest thoughts, it’s also censoring your most brilliant ones. “There are no genius ideas that don’t sound crazy at first.” 


This quote and story is directly from the book Humor Seriously, written by Stanford professors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, which shows the power of humor in the workplace. A great read, of course. 

You probably aren't working on the crazy projects that Google X is up to—but no matter what your field is, starting with bad ideas helps unlock novel solutions. We believe this so strongly at Funmentum Labs, that we actually built software called Funware Ideator, which automates a bad idea brainstorm for your virtual team—no prep required!

Devin McNulty

Co-Founder of Funmentum Labs

P.S. sign up for our newsletter for articles like this every week