Friday, June 7, 2013

Want better ideas or input from people? Try Jon Bell's 'McDonalds Theory'

Do you ever get in the situation where, as a group, you need to decide on something but no one can think of anything to suggest? Wether it's your co-workers, friends, spouse, or kids, we've all said something like, "Let's decide where to go to lunch" or "What movie should we see?" and everyone just stares blankly. Recently, I found a pretty brilliant solution. It's called the McDonald's theory. Simply, people are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones.

Jon Bell writes:

"I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s ... An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge. Magic! ... It’s as if we’ve broken the ice with the worst possible idea, and now that the discussion has started, people suddenly get very creative."

Obviously there are plenty of work applications for this. I get involved in brainstorming sessions all the time where, for whatever reason (fear, nerves, boredom), no one offers anything. I think something like the McD's Theory can really bring those sessions to life. Now, unless you're the boss, don't be the one who makes the crap suggestion every time, and be sure to continue to add more ideas when the session gets cranking.

For someone who has done any improv, you get used to crappy offers and making the most of them by adding better details to make the original offer look amazing. I think it's a similar theory but instead of "Yes, and ..." it becomes more of a "Maybe, but ..." It doesn't block the conversation and keeps the idea channel open.

What's probably the most fun for me to think about is the family/friend use for this. However, my kids love McDonalds so I think an opposite approach will work for them. Such as "Let's go to Liver and Onion Town!"

What do you think? Will this work? How do you get others to be a part of the idea process?

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