Chopped, Creativity, and (Not) Thinking Big (with Dave Noll)

by | The Accidental Creative

Dave Noll and his business partner are the creators of the hit TV series Chopped, as well as a number of other popular television programs. Every day they bounce ideas off of one another, combining themes and smashing old concepts together to form new possible programs.

In our conversation, Dave and I engaged in a little “idea bouncing” as well. Here are a few of the practical tips that emerged in our chat:

Keep A Queue Of Old Ideas

When you engage in a project, you probably end up with a lot of discarded ideas that didn’t quite work out. What happens to those ideas? Many people simply discard them on the trash heap and start fresh with the next project. However, it’s wise to keep a queue of these old, but not quite right ideas. Keep them in a notebook, or on index cards, or someplace where you can browse them later. Often, an idea that’s not right now is the perfect idea for a later project, but you would never have remembered it unless you had a system to help you do so.

At the completion of each project, transfer the ideas or hunches that didn’t work out to a queue, and review it regularly so that you keep those ideas top of mind.

Don’t Think Big. Think Bigger.

In the interview, Dave told the story of pitching a “dream scenario” show to Barry Diller, the iconic TV executive, only to have him toss it back in his face as being too small. Dave said he learned that no matter how big you think, there is always someone who will think bigger. You’d might as well aim as high as you can with your career and decisions, because if you don’t, one of your competitors certainly will.

Will Smith didn’t want to be a movie star, he wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world. As you think about your life and your career, where are you playing too small? Where are you settling for what you can get instead of dreaming about possibility?

Consider New Media, New Formats

Given the economic shakeup caused by the pandemic, it’s time for many of us to reconsider how we are delivering our ideas to market. Dave and his business partner, having only made TV shows in the past, have just launched their first ever podcast called Factorious. While they certainly could simply focus on making TV shows, they decided to explore a new medium that would offer a different kind of challenge as well as the ability to reach a new audience with their work.

As you think about the work you do, how could you re-package or re-position it to reach a new audience? Is there a way to add a new form of media to the mix? A different distribution channel?

I found this conversation with Dave to be both inspiring and a lot of fun. It sparked some great ideas for how to take my business to a new place. As we deal with the current health and economic crisis, this is a great time to begin dreaming again about what might be possible for you on the other side.

This episode is sponsored by Literati. For a limited time, go to and get 25% off your first two orders.

The intro music for the AC podcast is by Joshua Seurkamp. End remix is by DJ Z-Trip.

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

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