Tag Archives: ideas

Nothing is unthinkable

I came across Will Burns’ post Nothing is Unthinkable via Neil Perkin’s blog post of the month feature today. (If you aren’t familiar with this regular feature, it is definitely worth following, and participating in, and looking back at, if you like reading clever people saying clever stuff…)

I really like this article because it fits nicely with all the thinking I have been doing recently about ideas, where ideas come from, and how to get good ones. It focuses around how someone said ‘There are no new ideas’ and deflated everyone’s enthusiasm.

Apparently (according to Brainyquote, that bastion of useful less ful information) the quote is originally attributed to Audre Lorde, who I had never really heard of. Perhaps because I don’t like poetry. Anyway, she actually said

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.

which is quite a bit more positive than the colleague in Burns’ article. And it is also quite true.

Burns says it’s important to remember that two old ideas can make a new idea – this ties in nicely with the Steven Johnson stuff about half hunches. This is also true.

Can two seemingly opposing ideas both be true? What I think is this. Whether they’re old ideas or new ideas, as long, as Audre Lorde says, they’re presented and packaged in a new way, or applied in a category they’ve not been applied before, and so on, they are ‘new enough’.

More importantly, who cares if the idea’s truly ‘new’? It’s much more important to maintain a positive and encouraging atmosphere so that people can get on with bumping their ideas up against other ideas to make better ideas.

I’m not necessarily saying planners/strategists have to be cheerleaders – it’s just as important to be realistic and critical – but the role of the strategist is to work out ways of keeping everyone engaged – not just the target audience – but creatives, design team, account management, your SEM team, and even the client.

This is best done with lots of interesting ways of approaching the problem, of making whatever brand/product/service you are working on seem essential to human existence, of making solving that problem a challenge people want to conquer.

It’s not life and death in marketing, it’s meant to be fun. We’re coming up with new ways to sell stuff, in hopefully creative ways.

That’s pretty much it, actually.

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The strategist-creative team – a source of better ideas?

I’ve been hunting around recently trying to find some decent articles about ‘the new creative team’, i.e. not the traditional pairing of art director and copywriter, but one that is more suitable for the integrated, digital world we live in.

I first came across the idea about 4 years ago.  A pal of mine had moved as a solo creative to Work Club, which she said was super exciting after working for years in a creative team.  She said the best thing wasn’t just the energy the place had but the fact that she was frequently paired with a strategist (in the same way as she would have been paired with her former copywriting partner) but also working very closely with UX designers, developers, and other members of the wider team.  These guys understood the technology as well as the creative idea.

The result was a constantly changing team who brought something new to the table every time they met – even if it was just a fresh face and a bit of enthusiasm.

At the time this seemed really outlandish (but thrilling).  I thought that perhaps this would take the traditional ‘creative’ off their pedestals and into a situation where they were properly useful, in helping everyone come up with better ideas, and in helping everyone feel like part of the idea.  It was a much more caring, sharing way for things to be.  The epitome of ‘we don’t work in silos’, which is what everyone says but is often not practiced.

Since I started working in digital 4 years ago this has become a far more common way of working and it is something we do at Equator.  I very much enjoy working in a pair with a designer/creative, and also with a wider team, and I believe that this really does help to get the balance right, avoid too many meetings, keep the focus when it’s needed, but also ensure that idea generation and collaboration on ideas is something everyone can take part in (and pride in.)

There are a few articles that I came across in this search which reflect the experience my friend and I have both had, from ‘opposite sides’, i.e. she as a creative and me as a strategist:

Edward Boches The new creative team and getting it to work

This really reflects my friend’s experience and offers some great tips for making it work in your agency.

Olivier Altmann and Richard Pinder The new creative team (this opens as a pdf)

This is a similar article to the above but it’s also about new ways of working more generally.

Rory Sutherland Who make better planners?

The result of one of these black/white debates which essentially came up with the result that we need a good balance of planning/strategy and creative.  And that they should work more closely together.

Richard Huntington Is Planning in crisis?

Again, a simplistic question but some interesting points made about how we have to move with the times.

Edited to add: David J Carr So what is planning now we are all digital?

A really nice article about changing roles of brands means changing roles for planners.  (Better roles, actually.)

If you know of any other articles that fit, I’d be really interested in reading them.

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Some great sources about ideas, insights, and so forth

Browsing around, here are some articles about ideas, insight and planning that I’ve found very helpful, interesting, challenging, useful, thought-provoking and so on…

Seth Godin: Where do ideas come from?

This is a list of 20 places ideas come from.  I like the way he makes ideas sound like living things, with lives of their own.  Reminds me that we have to knock ideas into shape if we want them to help us achieve what we want them to.

Dave Trott: The difference between an insight and an idea

Useful thinking around the important difference between insight and ideas, that the latter really can’t exist without the former.

Little Scraps of Paper is a Posterous blog…

…which has lots of videos of creative people talking about their creative practices, where they get their ideas from.

Martin Weigel’s provocative article, Stop fetishising the insight

Great article, reminds us that even astonishing insights stop being ‘Aha’ revelations once they are expressed and become common knowledge/received wisdom. I hope I have understood his argument in that it leads me to think that although every idea needs  insight, we shouldn’t waste time on perfecting the insight itself, gilding lilies, flogging dead horses, making silk purses etc etc.  Our challenge is to not stop at the insight but to push for better ideas, make sure whatever we do is useful and true.

Tom Wagner’s Approaches to ideas and a proposed metaphor

Superb metaphor: ‘creative hedging’ = fits well with the current trend for no-process, no-formal brief protocol agile planningness…

Bobulate is…

…chock full of common sense and genius

Ideas are awesome

…is full of lovely ideas, unsurprisingly


Great stuff.

But the She Says sub-question (do women and men have different approaches to creativity) has got me thinking.  Where are all the women blogging about ideas?  Why am I looking for them separately now?  Why aren’t they being referenced as much as men?

Here are some women blogging about good ideas and their thinking:

Heather LeFevre – a planning director in Amsterdam who runs an annual planner survey

The Made by Many blog features interesting women

Uberblond (although she is taking a break.)

Farrah Bostic – who curates a list of women to watch, which rather thrillingly includes my friend Nicki Sprinz

Now I’m starting to explore her blogroll and the blogs from there.  There’s a world of new untapped stuff to read – how exciting!


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Gathering inspiration about good ideas

So, following on from my last post, I have been given the opportunity to speak at the forthcoming inaugural She Says Scotland event, which is also titled ‘Where Do Good Ideas Come From?’  I’m now trying to think of an interesting angle for my talk, having a look round the World Wide Web for some inspiration.

There is lots out there…

The recent event in London sounded really interesting, and was inspired by Steven Johnson’s book of the same name.  I haven’t read the book but I’ve watched these two videos, which I hope are accurate reflections of the argument.

In the first there is a brief summary of his thinking about hunches, half-hunches, collaboration and inclubation.

I agree very strongly with him about the above!  It is obvious, but good ideas need time and they need to be talked about.  We need to give everything time and space to grow.

We are also extremely lucky to be so connected by technology these days – I feel that this makes solving problems much easier.  (Especially since the web has become a wonderful time-saving repository of knowledge, offering more time to spend thinking about things.)

And this is a longer talk where he describes his ‘liquid networks’ theory of innovation in more detail:

What’s exciting about this video is the ensuing discussion in the comments about getting people to work together on problems through the TED platform.  Big brains helping each other.  Could be quite exciting!  (Although I think it is probably already happening.)

Johnson’s argument is very much focused on the environment required for fostering ideas.  The Independent seems to think this is a bad thing.  I have worked in agencies that focused a lot on building a free and creative environment, and some that were more like bog standard offices.  It is more pleasant to work in the wacky, hotdesking, unconventional ones but I don’t think we had particularly better ideas as a result.  However, as long as you don’t think this is the only way of nurturing creative thinking then that’s fine.  You need people who aren’t afraid of saying things that might be wrong or stupid.  You need people who don’t give up.  You need time.  You need coffee…

I’ll post this now, but be prepared for part two as it’s always quite handy to collate some basic source material in one place like this.

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Where do good ideas come from? A post about ideas and creative briefs

Where do good ideas come from?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week, as I was asked this very question the other day, as my good friend Nicki Sprinz was giving a talk on ideas at the most recent She Says event.  I answered her question with lots of rambly stuff, which she kindly edited into something that sounded quite pithy and sensible.

I said

Good ideas come from intelligent creative people working together.  The brief just sets the parameters for the direction and records the thinking.

This has come at a good time as I’ve been asked to do some training with the people in my department on what a planner/strategist does, why planning/strategy is good, and also how to make better creative work/ideas happen (but still be ‘on brief’.)

One of the important elements in this argument is the creative brief.  Creative briefs are important.  Lots of agencies don’t bother with them any more – many more than that don’t seem to care if they’re good – but they should still be held in high esteem because:

They are a record of all the thinking that has happened to date.  This should be a lot of thinking.  There should have been desk research, consumer research, trawling through stats and reports and whatever else to find golden nuggets of insight.  These insights, challenging thoughts which should be no less than ‘revolutionary’, should get people excited about the task.

Here’s an absolutely terrific presentation about creative briefs from Dare:

Anything can be exciting if the benefit to the consumer is made clear in the brief.  If that’s clear then thinking up the next ideas beyond that is down to the people in the room.

Good ideas come from creative people working together.  The brief should be great and the person doing the brief has to know their stuff.  The other people in the room should be creative, smart, funny (funny is essential), enthusiastic, and prepared to say whatever comes into their heads.  The cliche that nothing is wrong in a brainstorm is right.  That’s why it’s a cliche.  I also say ‘working together’ because it is work.  We should be prepared to take lots of time to hone, refine and perfect our ideas.

So, that’s it.  I really would have liked to have been at the event – sounds like it went very well.

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