How can you tell a good idea from a bad one? 

The way innovators answer this question is crucial. I caution my students and managers that  Type I errors (or “false positive”), or implementing a bad idea on the theory it is a good one, are far far worse than Type II errors, or rejecting a good idea on the theory it is bad.

Why? Because you can waste years of your life on a bad idea, a cost far worse and far dearer than wasting money.   And if you reject a good idea, well, there are thousands more like it.  So, invest considerable time and effort in checking out ideas; avoid Type I at all cost.

So, how can you tell a good idea from a bad one?  

A blog in Business Week’s “Innovation Engine” department (Jan. 27) by Michael Maddock and Raphael Viton, recommends — fun and laughter. Maddock and Viton run Maddock Douglas, a company that invents, brands and markets products for innovative firms.

For years I have told students — if your friends laugh at your idea, know that you are on the right track. Now Business Week’s experts validate that notion. 

People who work for Maddock Douglas meet daily at 9 a.m. for 9 minutes. They call it the ‘daily huddle’. The agenda: Share news. Maddock and Viton try to make the meetings fun. 

“There is a lot of silliness”, Maddock writes,” and a lot of laughter. Much of it has led to jokes, observations and comments that have in turn led to ideas that have directly impacted our clients and company.” The daily huddle, they relate, was invented by Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelles, an “outsourced corporate university for midsize firms”,  based on his study of John D. Rockefeller.

The authors write:

Fun is the antidote to fear. If you are an innovation leader in a company that has become fearful, your people are on the road to failure unless you can change your culture. Cue the music,  it’s time to infuse some fun into the workplace.

In today’s global crisis, fear prevails in many organizations. Fear of job loss. Fear of error. Fear of mistakes. Fear of bankruptcy. 

Fear kills hope. Worse, fear kills ideas. 

Take the “F” in fear. Save the “F”. Strip the ‘ear’. Use the ear to listen. Do you hear fear? If so — add a “U” and an “N”.  Create fun.  

When was the last time your organization had a collective belly laugh?