How Many Ideas Are Enough Ideas?


January 7, 2020


One the first day of class, a pottery teacher split her class into two halves.

To the first half she said, “You will spend the semester studying pottery, planning, designing, and creating your perfect pot. At the end of the semester, we’ll have a competition to see whose pot is the best.”

To the other half she said, “You will spend your semester making lots of pots. Your grade will be based on the number of completed pots you finish. At the end of the semester, you’ll also have the opportunity to enter your best pot into a competition.”

The first half of the class threw themselves into researching, planning, and design. Then they set about creating their one perfect pot for the competition.

The second half of the class immediately grabbed fistfuls of clay and started churning out pots. They made big ones, small ones, simple ones, and intricately detailed ones. Their muscles ached for weeks because of the strength they built by having to throw so many pots.

At the end of class, both groups entered their best work into the competition. Once the votes were tallied, all of the best pots came from the team that was tasked with producing as many pots as they could. What they learned from making so many different samples helped them become significantly better potters than the other students who set out to make the single most perfect pot.

Quantity or quality?

While doing some background reading for my 30-Day Creativity Challenge, I came across an interesting report from WeTransfer.

They conducted research into creativity and how people develop ideas. They asked 20,000 creatives from almost every country on the planet seven questions on how they develop their ideas.

How did their research compare to what the students learned in the pottery class?

Seems the teacher knew exactly what she was doing.

People tend to think of themselves as either ‘idea people’ or not. But really, it’s a numbers game.

WeTransfer found that…
– 72% of people end up using less than half of their ideas
– In France, 1 in 4 people use less than 10% of them
– In the U.S., Mexico and South Africa about 10% of people use less than 10% of those sparks of inspiration

While the numbers might be startling, it underscores an important aspect of the creative process: If you want to have better ideas, you have to start with more ideas.

Download all three reports:
2020 Ideas Report (find out how the pandemic has affected creativity)
2019 Ideas Report (read why you need to trust your gut)
2018 Ideas Report (learn where to get true inspiration)

Photo credit: qimono via Pixabay

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.