Last week I attended an Ideas workshop and it got me thinking…

Coming up with ideas is hard. But coming up with great ones can sometimes feel impossible.

In this fast moving world where we seem to have less and less time to come up with anything, let alone something great. When everything seems to have been done already, we need to remind ourselves that the creative process isn’t a tap – you don’t just turn it and the ideas come flooding out – it’s tough, and it needs work.

When faced with having to come up with something brilliant, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves (well I do anyway) – we live in a world where, if we don’t have something by a set time, we panic and it can be a bit of a spiral – the more panic or pressure we put on ourselves to come up with something great, the more foggy and higher the climb to the idea summit seems to get. Those blank white pieces of paper where all those great ideas should be screaming at you – as the pile of screwed up rejects gets bigger and bigger.

So, how do you get ideas flowing?

Here are a few thoughts and they are nothing new, but they are to be remembered:

1. Start with pen and paper and write words, just words and loads of them – use walls to stick them up (lots of space for lots of thoughts) – fill them with Post-it notes – anything that comes into your head. At this stage anything goes – you can cull ideas later – now isn’t the time.

By all means go online and search out inspiration but don’t immediately go and sit back at your mac (other computers are available) and start creating that perfectly mocked-up ‘finished ad’ – how can you? You haven’t got the idea yet.

And remember searching can be a skill in itself – I recommend searching for inspiration, not the answer.

2. Think of a line that sums up what you are trying to achieve –  and keep it simple, engaging and creative and keep it in mind (throughout the process).

For example, when Michelangelo was briefed on the Sistine Chapel he wasn’t asked to just ‘paint the ceiling’ – had he taken this at face value a couple of coats of magnolia and he would have been done – not very inspirational though? The brief or one liner he actually worked to was something along the lines of ‘Please paint our ceiling bringing the glory of God into the chapel as an inspiration and lesson to his people.’ This was something that was much more inspirational and whatever Michelangelo created could be measured against this and in this instance he really delivered.

3. Collaborate – work with others  – share the load – 2 or 3 people is a good number – and a good mixture – include a copywriter, Art Director, Designer but, a good idea can come from anyone so don’t discount someone who isn’t a ‘Creative’ – they may bring another dimension to the thinking. Large brainstorms are a tricky one as the more people you involve, the more certain personalities may come to the fore and prevent the less vocal pitching forward their thoughts.

4. Keep the ideation bursts short – we naturally begin to run out of steam after 20 minutes or so, so take regular breaks and step away from the problem for a while then come back to it. Sitting in a room for 4 hours beating yourself up because you haven’t smashed it out of the park is not the road to success – and is a sure fire way to break the budget on the job before you have got very far. Hitting the road and going for a walk, a run or wherever you go to get away from it all can be – ideas do have this tendency to come when you are least expecting.

5. When you have some ideas, ask other people their opinion and don’t frame it as ‘do you like this’ – ask ‘what is wrong with it and what you can do to make it better’.

6. Embrace the ridiculous – there’s no such thing as a stupid idea – it could lead to something that is brilliant. Make connections between things – these can be seemingly quite random connections and ask questions about the product or service you are trying to sell. For example: What if it could fly? What if could do more than it currently does? What if it was another brand – how would they sell it?

Coming up with killer ideas isn’t easy

Who would’ve thought that the seemingly random act of a gorilla playing drums could have become one of the most famous ads ever made – whilst seemingly absurd it did have rationality in that it held true to Cadbury’s ethos of moments of joy.

Coming up with killer ideas isn’t easy – never has been, never will, but hopefully approaching it this way will mean you will come up with ideas and it will be an enjoyable, fulfilling experience not a panic-filled, heart-palpitating nightmare.

And remember, be kind to yourself – step away from the problem, look at it differently, ask others their opinions, embrace the ridiculous and the solution will come, promise.

Get the idea?

Liam Forrest CD
Liam Forrest
Creative Director