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Being Open to All Ideas

June 20


About This Episode

(Season 5, Episode 25)

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Research has shown we have a negative bias against creative ideas because we are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Implementing new ideas means change and change brings uncertainty, so we dismiss new ideas before that uncertainty arises.
Bob Bertsch shares a practice that can help us deal with that uncertainty by seeing that all ideas, even ones that lead to awesome innovations, start out as bad.



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Jessica Beckendorf: Hello, and thanks for joining us for the Practicing Connection podcast. I’m Jessica Beckendorf with Bob Bertsch. Hi, Bob. How have you been?

Bob Bertsch: I’ve been good. Hi, good to see you again. This week, I’ve been super inspired and just amazed by one of our mutual friends, Bjørn Peterson. Bjørn is a poet and a writer, woodworker, and a scholar and practitioner of nonviolence and community transformation. This is probably his greatest accomplishment. He’s also a former Practicing Connection podcast guest. You can go back into the archives at and check out the two-part podcast that we did with Bjørn. He recently published a really incredible collection of poetry called A Beautiful Amble. Bjørn’s poems and his passion and resilience have really been inspiring me this week. Would you mind if I read one of Bjørn’s poems?

Jessica: Yes, please do. I was going to ask about that because I don’t have the book yet, and I’m definitely– it’s on my list to get.

Bob: This is one. It’s a short poem. It’s called Softer Heart.

I’m looking for my softer heart, the one made from taffy,

This peanut brittle is not as smooth as it seems, shards in the mouth, glass masquerading as candy,

I need the watery resilience of a heart that’s sweet and stretchy, a fistful, unweighed, flung into the bag and shared in the town square with slow, smooth bites that refuse to be rushed,

I want that strawberry song and tooth-hugging insistence, the lock-jawed, root-jarring, unchomping, where the heart’s reach resists release and love elongates our common table.

Love that poem. Love Bjørn. Hope you’re doing well, Bjørn.

Jessica: Yes, and wow. I definitely have to get that book. That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Also, I very much would like to go find me some taffy right now.

Bob: Yes, makes you hungry for taffy too.

Jessica: I haven’t had it in a really long time. I’ve actually been spending time this week myself. I’ve actually been in a state of a little bit of wonder maybe. Obviously, not every minute of every day, but the weather’s been nicer. I’ve been hanging out on my patio and I’ve been watching these bunnies in my yard. They’re a new breed of bunny that are not afraid of dogs or people because they don’t seem to mind that we’re sitting right there watching them.

They don’t mind when we walk out into the yard, they just hold steadfast in their location. They might move a few feet here or there, but there’s a nest. It’s underneath this beautiful Japanese maple that we have in our yard. There’ve been four rabbits that are working together to guard this nest. It’s so funny to watch them. It’s like they’re setting up a perimeter. I’ve been trying to look this up to find out, is this normal behavior in rabbits? I’m sure it is.

Literally, there are these two rabbits that work together to establish a perimeter and they run the perimeter every so often. They are guarding this nest. They take care of each other. I’ve seen the mom come back to feed the babies in the nest. Really, every time I try looking it up, I can only find information on how to get rid of rabbits. I’m starting to question why I ever tried to get rid of them because they’ve been really fascinating to watch. I don’t want them to eat my plants. Maybe I’ll get mad at them again then. Right now, I’ve really been enjoying the nature of it.

Bob: That sounds awesome. I love this time of year.

Jessica: We’d love to hear what you’ve been thinking about and what’s inspiring you. You can share that with us by clicking the Send Us a Text Message at the top of the description of this episode. When you click the link, your text messaging app will open and you’ll see a seven-digit number with the words “Do not remove.” Type your message after that and click send. Don’t remove the number or we won’t receive your message.

To protect your privacy, we won’t see your phone number and we can’t text you back, but we’ll share your feedback on a future episode. If you’re listening on a computer, you can email us at [email protected]. Let us know what’s inspiring you right now.


Jessica: Let’s learn more about being open to all ideas. Bob, can you tell us a little more about the practice you’ll be sharing and why you chose it?

Bob: Absolutely. The practice I’m going to share is just called bad ideas. Maybe for lack of a better title. I don’t know. I learned about this practice from the Adobe Kickbox. That’s a toolkit that Adobe designed and they sent it out to folks to spark corporate innovation. Several years ago, I worked with a group of colleagues in cooperative extension to adapt those materials to support innovation in extension programming.

The Kickbox process has six steps; inception, ideate, improve, investigate, iterate, and infiltrate. The bad ideas practice comes from that ideate step. To be innovative, we need to generate new ideas. That’s where the ideation comes from, or at least ideas that never occurred to us before or in our context. Sometimes a completely new idea might occur to us, but I think we’re generating or coming across new ideas all the time.

They’re in the things we hear and read. Hopefully, you get something here in this podcast, or from our blog, or from our newsletter. The way those things bump up against our own experiences and opinions is what, to me, creates innovation. They’re there every time we asked ourselves, what if, what if a soccer ball was a watermelon? What if I could grow a tomato overnight? I would probably do that, definitely.

We’re generating these–

Jessica: That would be great.

Bob: Yes, that would be awesome. We’re generating new ideas all the time, but there are things that keep us from spending much time thinking about them. Research has shown that we have a negative bias against creative ideas because we’re uncomfortable with uncertainty. Implementing new ideas means change, and change brings that uncertainty that we are uncomfortable with. It’s just easier to dismiss new ideas before the uncertainty even arises.

Another thing that keeps us from being open to new ideas is judgment. I think this is just a human condition. I’m going to assume that everybody is familiar with what we’re talking about here, that we judge our own ideas and the ideas of others as either good or bad, even before we know where that idea might end up leading us. We hold implicit biases against others based on race and gender and age and other elements, including just how we view the person who’s voicing the idea and whether we think they’re smart, or creative, or reckless, or practical.

Our view of ourselves leads us to judge our own ideas as well. If we think we’re not very creative, we might dismiss an idea because it can’t be good because it came from someone uncreative like me. The whole point of this practice then is to help with that judgment because it’s built on a premise that all ideas, even the ones that lead to something awesome, start out as bad. All ideas are bad. There’s no point in judging ideas or the person voicing them because all ideas start out as bad ideas.

Jessica: I really love that. Let’s get started. Please walk us through this practice.

Bob: All right. If all ideas are bad ideas, then we’re going to generate some bad ideas. That’s the objective of the practice, and we’re going to try and generate a lot of bad ideas. We need to start by creating a place to keep them. Get yourself a physical or digital notebook and clearly, in all caps, label it BAD IDEAS. It can help to include drawings on the notebook cover or emojis in the title of your digital notebook to just remind you just how bad these ideas are allowed to be.

Be creative. Really internalize the idea that this is a place for bad ideas, and all ideas are bad. Once you’ve created your bad ideas notebook, block 45 minutes on your calendar at a time that you know you’ll be rested and you’ll be ready to think. Find a quiet place. Silence your phone. Open your bad ideas notebook, and then have a pad of post-it notes with you. Those should be physical, but if you want to use digital notes, you can as well. Those are two separate things, right? Your bad ideas book and then some post-it notes in front of you.

Set a timer for 25 minutes and start generating ideas. Just start thinking. Jot down your interesting thoughts. Jot down your crazy thoughts. Jot down all your ideas in your bad ideas notebook. Now, whenever we’re ideating, whenever we’re just existing, distracting thoughts pop up. If any distracting thoughts like “Don’t forget to send that email,” or, “I should be working on something else,” or, “I have to remember to walk the dog this afternoon.” Write them down on the post-it notes, not in your ideas notebook, and just set them off to the side.

That’s a way of you just acknowledging, “Hey, I had that thought, and I’m letting go of it. I’m putting it over here.” Once your timer goes off, stop writing, take a break, take a few deep breaths, maybe just sit for a minute, and just let things come to you. Creativity is a background process, so it can be helpful if we stop focusing on generating ideas, and just let our minds wander.

If an idea occurs to you in this time, write it down in your bad ideas book, then go back to relaxing until your 45 minutes that you’ve blocked off has been used up. Then, as you go forward, keep your bad ideas book handy, especially when you have time for your mind to wander, for example, on a walk, or when you’re driving, or when you’re in the shower. Those might not be the most convenient times to be writing in your book, but you can stop or dry off, and then write down all your bad ideas in your book. All ideas are bad ideas. This will help you, hopefully, be open to them, but all of them have the potential, or each of them have, in the right time and place, in the right context, to lead to really good things.

Jessica: Thank you so much for guiding us through that. As someone who puts a lot of weight on written words, when I’ve used this practice, it’s been really helpful for me to have that label as bad ideas, because I’m terrified that someone’s going to find my notebooks and my written words, and think that I really meant all of it, when really I was just trying to work through something in my mind, or I was trying to work through some ideas in this case. I really appreciate this practice every single time that I’ve gone through and used it.

Bob: That’s awesome. I’m glad it’s working for you. Yes, it’s worked for me.

Jessica: That’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, click the Share button in your podcast app to share it with a friend. We’ll be back next week with a practice for making small adjustments. Until then, keep practicing.


Kalin Goble: The Practicing Connection podcast is a production of OneOp, and is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, US Department of Defense, under award numbers 2019-48770-30366 and 2023-48770-41333.

[00:12:47] [END OF AUDIO]


June 20
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