During a presentation on Taking the NO Out of Innovation, we were talking about the importance of sharing dirty ideas (i.e., ideas that are not fully formed) with others early enough for them to constructively influence your creative thinking.


One participant, while agreeing with the concept of sharing dirty ideas, asked how to share dirty ideas with a client (either external or internal) or other stakeholder who is expecting YOU to provide fully cleaned up creative thinking.

4 Ideas for Safely Sharing Your Dirty Ideas and Thinking

Even if the overall result would benefit from a client weighing in on dirty ideas before they have been all cleaned up, certain clients are going to resist anything that seems as if they are “giving” you the answer. If that is an issue you face, here are four strategies for trying to still get the input you need:

1. Discuss hypothetical situations

Clearly state up front that you want to discuss some "hypothetical" ideas you are exploring. Labeling the dirty ideas as hypothetical can create some safe space to open up a productive conversation.

2. Share dirty ideas in small chunks

Rather than devoting an entire meeting or extended time to get reactions to your dirty thinking, share your dirty thinking in small pieces. Leave ten minutes at the end of a one hour meeting that has been focused on concrete progress to cover more exploratory creative thinking.

3. Shift your dirty ideas to another industry

Try placing your creative thinking in the context of another industry or market situation. By moving the situation so it does not seem as personal (either individually or organizationally), you will likely stand a better chance to getting beneficial input from your client.

4. Let your client feel like they are dirtying up your ideas

If you have a client who is particularly critical, simply give them a few details of the creative thinking you have been doing. This may prompt them to take the first stab at messing around with your creative ideas. Once that happens, you can follow suit and explore all the angles you need to get their feedback.

How do you get the best input on your creative thinking?

Are you hesitant to share your dirty ideas and thinking with others, especially if there is some risk to doing so? If you have successfully shared preliminary work in these types of situations what has worked for you? And are you up for sharing more dirty ideas to strengthen the ultimate results from your creative thinking? - Mike Brown

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