Virtual Design Thinking: Taking your Ideas from Bad to Rad

“Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them.”

Seth Godin

My team and I have been trying to update an existing program to bring it to students in a virtual format. After several conversations, I was still feeling stuck and unsure of what we could do. I decided to engage my colleagues at a recent staff meeting to help solve the problem.

Before the meeting, I had already done some work to empathize and define my problem. I was at the ideation stage where I wanted to gather a lot of different unfiltered ideas. So we launched into a bad idea brainstorm.

Bad Idea Brainstorm

How many times have you been trying to brainstorm but find yourself filtering your ideas? Maybe its because the idea isn’t fully formed or maybe you worry about judgement from your colleagues. By holding back you’re doing the brainstorm session a disservice. This could lead to a missed opportunity to create something truly innovative. As I’ve said over and over, we need your ideas and perspectives so don’t be afraid to share them!

The Bad Idea Brainstorm might feel a little bit strange at first but it’s fun and there will be a few laughs along the way.

Bad Idea Brainstorm Instructions

When to use a bad idea brainstorm: when you’re feeling stuck or need to warm up a group before some creative work.

Materials needed:

  • Online meeting platform
  • Your favourite word processing (do we still use this term? It has 90s vibes, but I’m going for it!) app
  • You best pals (or maybe just your colleagues)
  • A whole lotta enthusiasm!


  1. Before the meeting determine what your problem statement is. Type it at the top of your favourite word processing app (could be Microsoft word, google docs, etc).
  2. Find yourself a note taker for the meeting and send them the document with the problem statement.
  3. At the meeting get your note-taker to open up the document and share it on their screen with the group.
  4. Take a few minutes to present your problem statement. Answer any questions your team may have about the problem you’re seeking help with.
  5. Let your team know you’re going to take about 5 minutes to do a Bad Idea Brainstorm. Ask team members to shout out “bad” ways to solve this problem while the notetaker writes down the ideas.
  6. After the end of the brainstorm session review the suggestions and see if any of them might be a viable good idea.

Variation: split into break out groups if your team is too large

Bad Idea Brainstorm Example

How might our community celebrate Halloween in the midst of COVID-19?

  • Make everyone stand on their front porch and wave to each other instead of trick or treating
  • Make everyone wear hazmat suits to go trick or treating
  • Have parents set up tables outside and do drive-by trick or treating
  • Tell the kids they’ve been dreaming and that Halloween was never real
  • Only allow households to hand out masks or hand sanitizer
  • Let the kids go trick or treating as usual
  • Create a haunted house and make the kids go through it alone to physical distance
  • Implement a curfew and let the children be feral until that time. Spray them with Lysol when they come home.
  • Use a reaching stick to throw the candy in the kid’s candy bucket from a distance
  • Draw lines on the sidewalk like at the grocery store so kids have to wait in line to come up to the door.
  • Get everyone to forgo trick or treating and create a Halloween Santa
  • Get the neighbours on board with putting up outdoor decorations instead of handing out candy
  • Make the kids watch all the scary movies from our youth then jump out and scare them before bed
  • Have a creepy person drive around dressed up like Jason while the kids are trick-or-treating
  • Leave a bowl of treats on the front porch and hide behind a bush to scare the kids as they come up to get a candy
  • Have a virtual zoom party
  • Skeet shoot candy to kids and have them shoot it with Lysol (rather than a gun) before they can claim it
  • Make kids sit alone in their houses in their Halloween costumes

Turning Bad Ideas Into Good Ideas

The majority of the responses truly are bad, but a few could be a jumping-off point for some good ideas. For example, what if we mashed up Halloween Santa with the outdoor decorations? Our community could create a self-guided walking tour around the neighbourhood to look at decorations and be able to see their friends in costumes. When the kids return home they could find some treats left by Halloween Santa on their front porch. This could provide the excitement of trick or treating without having multiple people handle candy packages.

Tell me some of your bad ideas about how we can celebrate Halloween! Maybe your bad idea will turn out to be a good one.

Be Brave,


Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s