Where the wild ideas are – the devil’s advocate, the single greatest threat to innovation

The world needs wild ideas. But every wild idea faces a road of obstacles to bring it to life. The hard work comes after the brainstorming rumpus when you have to bring others along.

Few of these obstacles are as rough as the devil’s advocate. IDEO founder Tom Kelley once called the devil’s advocate the single greatest threat to innovation:

“Devil’s advocates remove themselves from the equation and sidestep individual responsibility for the verbal attack. But before they’re done, they’ve torched your fledgling concept…

“What’s truly astonishing is how much punch is packed into that simple phrase. In fact, the devil’s advocate may be the biggest innovation killer in America today. What makes this negative persona so dangerous is that it is such a subtle threat…

“Because a devil’s advocate encourages idea wreckers to assume the most negative possible perspective, one that sees only the downside, the problems, the disasters-in-waiting. Once those floodgates open, they can drown a new initiative in negativity.”

This is exactly the uphill battle that Maurice Sendak faced with “Where the Wild Things Are”. When it was published in 1963, the book was hated by critics and banned in libraries. Wild ideas always attract naysayers. But wild ideas are the ones that make a dent. “Where the Wild Things Are” is one of the most awarded and influential children’s books in history.

Not all wild ideas are winners. And critical thought is essential to make ideas stronger. But too often wild ideas are smothered or diluted before they’ve really had a chance.

Tom Fishburne, Marketoonist.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: