I’m Marc Randolph, and I’m here to tell you:

There’s no such thing as a bad idea

Marc Randolph

Have you ever been to a brainstorming meeting? They all start the same way; with someone saying:

“Remember… there’s no such thing as a bad idea.”

Well, I call Bullshit!

There are plenty of bad ideas. In fact, I believe there’s no such thing as a good idea.

And I’ll tell you why.

First, let me tell you a story.

My curiosity always got me in trouble

If there was a door, I had to open it.

If there was a lever, I had to pull it.

One time I even set off the school fire alarm because I wanted to see what would happen… 😬

In fact, when we first came up with the idea for Netflix, the first thing we did was to put a CD in an envelope and mail it to ourselves to see if it would break.

I just wanted to see what would happen!

The “perfect” plan

But once we decided to start Netflix, I was terrified of failing. I couldn’t afford to just “see what would happen” so I tried to plan everything out. It took six months and a million dollars to build that first website, and on April 14th, 1998 I was ready for the world to meet my great idea.

It was a DISASTER.

People found it confusing. The site crashed. No one behaved the way we expected. No one rented from us.

But luckily I had another can’t-miss idea!

This one took 6 weeks to test. There was custom photography. A week of copyediting. We double checked every link and stress-tested the site…

That idea didn’t work either.

I was getting nervous, so I started going faster. My next idea only took a month. The one after that, only a week. Soon I was testing a new one of my ideas every day.

Things were getting sloppier and sloppier. The tests had misspellings and typos. We used the wrong photos. We had dead links. We crashed the site.

My a-ha moment

But despite how fast we went . . . despite how bad the tests were . . . they taught me something super important:.

It didn’t matter!

If it was a bad idea, then even a perfectly executed test wasn’t going to make it a good idea.

But with every bad idea we tried, there was always something we learned. Some insight that brought us a few steps closer to trying something that might actually solve the problem.

I realized that it was a waste of time looking for a good idea, because there is no such thing!

The trick, I realized, was quickly, cheaply and easily testing as many bad ideas as I could.

It was getting back to being curious. Back to opening doors. Back to pulling levers. (And yes, back to pulling fire alarms).

Once I figured that out it changed my life. It changed the life of Netflix. It has changed the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs I’ve worked with.

But best of all, it’s an insight so powerful that anyone can use it to channel their natural curiosity and find success with whatever their challenges are.

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