[Don’t] Be Absurd. The Best Innovations Come Straight from the Imagination.

Photo by Brad Montgomery

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.”– Albert Einstein

I was reminded of this quote from Albert Einstein when I came across a post by Gijs van Wulfen on Linkedin. In ideation sessions with our clients, I am constantly encouraging them to share any and all ideas they have no matter how silly, infeasible, or absurd they may seem. You never know what kernel of genius may come from the long list of ideas we traditionally think of as crazy. In November of last year, I was privileged to attend a short talk from Mike Curtin, the CEO of DC Central Kitchen, during our partner, CTAA’s, Job Access Mobility Summit. Curtin told us the story of DC Central Kitchen, which started as a simple desire to reduce food waste in D.C., and is now one of the region’s largest job training, food distribution and farm co-op partners.

Curtin told us to define the perfect solution first and worry about execution and details later. A few years ago, Curtin realized that most of the food DC Central Kitchen was distributing was being shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away, and he got angry. He got so angry that he envisioned (and then built) a partnership with local farmers to source food.

Sure, it was more expensive. Sure, the company had to, at one point, go on strike to negotiate prices and terms, but they ultimately made the impossible possible. DC Central Kitchen achieved success by constantly expanding and re-imagining the problem they wanted to solve and at the same time envisioning what the solution would look like before thinking about cost or scalability.

Sure, not all crazy ideas are good ideas – I still wonder how some of the “As Seen on TV” products like “Sauna Pants” ever made it off the sketchpad and onto store shelves – but if we are willing to push ourselves past “what someone told me it should be” and into “what could it be,” we find ourselves solving problems and creating solutions that we never dreamed possible.

What’s the most absurd idea you’ve ever had? Did it work? Did it tank? Tell us what you dream up in your imagination.

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