I have recently been trawling back through old posts to see if they still resonate. This post from 2013 reminded me that some things never change. Even now, I still see a tendency to jump at the first idea that comes to me (or members of my team), and a tendency to reject and move on from ideas that look problematic at first glance.
Idea generation is important. If you’re answering a client brief worth thousands, or planning a party for the weekend, don’t take the easy way out. it generally leads to less creative solutions.
In marketing and advertising (and other fields), when you need ideas, you often need a lot of ideas, fast. You brainstorm, you think tank, you blue sky…. you use a bunch of different ways to create ideas, but at the end of the day you’re sitting at a screen thinking “this sucks“. So what went wrong?
Idea generation can be a tricky beast. Two scenarios often kick in.
1. Your first idea gets stuck in your head, you think it’s great and it becomes difficult to move on.
2. You instantly analyse each idea in its embryonic stage, spot the problems and reject it out of hand.
Both scenarios can quickly stifle progress. So how do you avoid them? Here are a couple of simple techniques.
For the ‘first idea is the best idea‘ problem, you need to force yourself to move on. This requires discipline, which is easy to say but often hard to achieve unless you plan properly. Set yourself a target number of ideas to generate. It might be 3, or 5, or 100. Draw up a grid on a sheet of paper, but only allow enough room for a paragraph to describe the core of the idea. Write that down, then move on. It will still continue to develop in your subconscious, but the grid and the targets will help you refocus.
If you’re comfortable generating lots of ideas but you keep finding flaws, slow down. Generate the core idea, write it down and then re-examine it at a later date. De Bono’s 6 Hats thinking system is useful here. Look at each idea, mark down the flaws, but continue to use the 6 hats system to properly examine the idea. Just because an idea is flawed doesn’t mean it’s dead. The benefits may outweigh the issues. The 6 hats system can help you find ways around problems, and more importantly will train you to analyse ideas more effectively. The good old Black Hat is not a kiss of death, it’s more a means of identifying potential warnings. Work them through.
Idea generation is not a science, but there are plenty of methods to make it more consistent and more effective. I hope these help.