If you want to be a bad product manager, immediately reject any bad idea. There’s no point in discussing an idea with which there are serious and obvious flaws. Putting any effort into them just wastes everyone’s time. Clearly communicate the problems with the idea, put it to rest, and move on.
If you want to be a good product manager, encourage all ideas, even bad ones. You might be expecting the “there are no bad ideas” pep talk, but there are in fact bad ideas. Face it — some ideas are just better than others. However, just because an idea is bad does not mean that you should not even entertain the idea or spend any time with it.
Accepting all ideas — even ones that appear to be totally awful and worthless to even think about — benefits your product in several ways:
- It establishes an environment in which people are encouraged to offer suggestions and comments. The idea that you think is horrible is one that the contributor thinks is brilliant. If you quickly shut that person down, how likely do you think that person is to contribute in the future? Customers, team members, and partners should be encouraged to offer up input as much as possible.
- It allows you to build off ideas and make them better. A salesperson’s idea for a new product feature may at first seem ridiculous. Upon further consideration, you may come to conclusion that it indeed is ridiculous. However, during that consideration, you were able to generate a handful of other related and more appropriate ideas for features. Had you rejected the suggestion at first blush, you never would have had the opportunity to build off of it.
- It may be that a bad idea is a really good one. Maybe it seemed bad when you first heard it, but upon further consideration and discussion you realized the benefits. Or, it could be that you really do think it’s a bad idea, but everyone else thinks its brilliant and you are just wrong. (Hey, stranger things have happened.)
Collaboration and innovation are important parts of product development. You need to create an environment in which both are encouraged. If you reject ideas outright, that will not only stifle creativity but encourage others to do so, further reducing the likelihood for collaboration and innovation. However, if you accept all suggestions for consideration and further reflection, regardless of how horrible they may initially appear, you will find that good ideas will emerge and you will have established working relationships in which more good ideas will flourish.