Accepting a High Failure Rate for Creativity

The Onion is consistently hilarious. For those who don't know, The Onion is a spoof newspaper with satirical headlines and a few paragraphs of fake quotes and commentary.

The radio show This American Life recently reported on how The Onion does what it does. Bob Sutton picks up on this interesting factoid: to get the 18 quality headlines needed for each week's edition, the writers have to propose 600 headlines in total. That's pretty refined filter, and as Bob notes, not unusual for a successful creative operation. At IDEO's toy group only 3% of proposed product ideas survive.

To come up with good ideas, you need to turn off the self-censor and crank out as many ideas as possible. Most of them will suck. But that's part of the process.

For the more visually inclined, here's what creativity at The Onion looks like:


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