A Lesson In Brainstorming

“No one is smart enough to come up with twenty bad ideas.”

In college, I took a couple of screenwriting classes. The little nugget of wisdom above came from my professor. He, in turn, picked it up from his friend Bill Marsilii, who co-wrote the screenplay for Déjà vu (starring Denzel Washington). Anyone who has seen the film know it has a clever plot, full of twists and turns. So if Marsilii has something to say about brainstorming new ideas, listen.

But what does this have to do with anything? Why do I bring up a screenwriter on a blog for a marketing firm that serves small to medium businesses? Marsilii’s Rule of 20, that’s why.

Have you ever been stumped for ideas? Whether it’s for a blog post or a marketing plan, it can be tough to come up with new ideas. That’s where Bill Marsilii’s rule comes in. Whenever he is struggling to get his hero out of a bind, he would write down twenty ideas. He knew that at least one of them had to be good—even if the other nineteen were terrible.

The trick to using the Rule of 20 effectively is to focus on a specific problem. What am I going to blog about today? How can I meet this client’s request while maintaining profitability? How can I manage my emails more effectively?

To apply the Rule of 20, simply start writing down ideas.  Keep an open mind, and keep remembering that you’re not smart enough to come up with twenty bad ideas. Sorry.


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