all posts tagged ideas

Free your mind…and ideas will follow.

Creativity flows more easily from an unstressed mind.

Creativity flows more easily from an unstressed mind.

Has this ever happened to you: You’re about to say something, but you get interrupted and seconds later you forget what you were going to say.

No matter how hard you try to remember, it’s gone.

So you quit trying…and a few seconds later you suddenly remember what you were going to say.

How does that happen?

Simple: The thought didn’t actually vanish; it was just hiding in your subconscious mind. Once you stopped straining to pry it out, it floated to the surface on its own. Funny how that works.

That same principle applies when you’re trying to come up with an idea for an ad, a product name, a visual, or the answer to a problem. Sometimes the best way to have an idea is to simply stop trying for a bit.

When you’ve been brainstorming for a while, the law of diminishing returns often kicks in. The mind turns to clay; the ideas dry up.

What then?

You stop consciously trying. Your mind has all the information it needs. It’s time to let it do its thing.

So you go do something else. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it doesn’t involve thinking about the project. Here are some suggestions:

Take a nap. Ideas will often emerge as you’re falling asleep or just waking up. Somehow that “twilight” region between sleeping and waking provides a natural conduit for ideas to flow from the subconscious into the conscious.

Take a walk. There’s nothing like getting outside and into the fresh air to give you a fresh perspective. The openness of the outdoors lifts that claustrophobic sense of feeling boxed-in by a project. Getting out and seeing some blue sky lets your imagination soar.

Exercise. It’s not just good for your body, it’s good for your brain. Rigorous exercise puts you in a different mental state and causes your brain to release chemicals that give you a sense of well-being.

Take a long, hot shower or bath. Don’t feel guilty about pampering yourself; it’s work-related. Standing in a steamy shower or letting Calgon take you away puts you in a mode of pure relaxation where your thoughts can freely drift. Those wanderings will often bring back useful solutions.

By no means are these the only methods for freeing your mind to do its best work. You can certainly try your own. Whatever you can do to stop consciously thinking about a project for a while enables your mind to work behind the scenes and to unlock all those ideas you have waiting to get out.

Try it for yourself and let us know how you do.

(Note: You can’t predict when an idea will emerge, so be prepared. Make sure you have a pen and notebook handy to jot down or sketch out the idea before it disappears into the ether. Don’t make the mistake of trying to recall it later on; write it down! Most ideas, particularly complex ones, quickly become cloudy unless captured immediately in written form. The mind is always active; ideas start undergoing alterations the moment you conceive them. Five minutes later, your original flash of insight may have morphed into something less useful. Write it down in its pure form the first moment you imagine it, and you’ll capture its essence.)

5 Steps to Having a Great Idea

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The “creative process” is indeed a process.

Some folks think ad agency people “sit around and think up ideas all day.”

This makes the creative process sound random and effortless, neither of which is true.

Agencies would quickly go out of business if they just “sat around” waiting for inspiration to strike.
They need a way to regularly and consistently create interesting ideas for the ads (and other stuff) they produce.

So…here it is, broken down into five simple steps:

1. Preparation

Getting ready to have an idea requires immersing yourself in the product or service you want to promote, learning everything you can about it, asking lots of questions. (Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”)

This may involve talking to engineers about a design, visiting a factory to see how a product is made or interviewing users of a service. It’s a lot of work, but without this necessary step you won’t have sufficient information from which to draw forth a great idea.

2. Incubation

After you’ve loaded your brain with information, it’s time let your mind work its magic. This step is equal parts work and fun, active and passive, conscious and unconscious.

The “work” part is brainstorming different solutions. The “fun” part is doing something completely unrelated, which frees up your subconscious mind to do its thing.

Creative folks have different methods for this: going somewhere quiet and thinking, heading out for a walk, napping, taking a drive, jogging, etc. You’ll need to find what works best for you. But the alternating pattern of working and taking a break seems to do the trick.

3. Illumination

This is where you go, “A-ha!” (or “Eureka!” or whatever it is you say when brilliance strikes). The idea comes to you and you’re ecstatic. You jump up and give yourself a mental high-five, congratulating yourself on your cleverness.

4. Evaluation

This step isn’t nearly as fun as Step 3. (In fact, it can be pretty painful.) It’s time to stand back and throw stones at the brand new, shiny idea you’ve just created.

This is no time to be proud or protective. Take a step back and examine the idea objectively. Look for flaws. Is it strong enough to stand up to scrutiny?

If if isn’t, swallow your pride, kick that idea to the curb and get to work on a better one.

Don’t worry; lightning struck once. If you’ve done your homework it will strike again.

5. Elaboration

If, on the other hand, your idea can withstand the slings and arrows you shot at it in Step 4, it’s ready to be turned into an actual ad.

That means writing the copy, designing the layout, creating the artwork. (In other words, a lot of hard work and effort.) But when it all comes together it’s a thing of beauty.

There’s no more rewarding professional experience than being part of a creative team transforming a single “big idea” into a campaign that impacts thousands or even millions of people.

Acknowledgment: Chapter Four of The Copy Workshop Workbook by Bruce Bendinger provided source material for this post.

“The Curse Of Knowledge”

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People who know a lot about certain subjects are particularly susceptible to the Curse of Knowledge.

You could be suffering from “the curse of knowledge” and not even know it.

(There’s irony for you, huh?)

The term “the curse of knowledge” was coined by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. It occurs when you know something so well you mistakenly assume others know it.

It gets worse with time too. The longer you’ve known something, the harder it becomes to imagine others not knowing it.

But here’s the worst thing about the curse of knowledge: It stops communication dead in its tracks. It causes you to confuse, bore and even alienate your audience.

That’s why marketing professionals must always be on guard against it.

Here’s an example of how it can happen (it’s a domestic scenario, but it applies to professional communication as well):

I enjoy figuring out songs “by ear” on our piano at home. One day my wife, who also plays a bit, asked me to show her how to do it. (She mostly just plays songs from sheet music.)

“Oh, it’s easy,” I said. “Just listen to the bass line; it’s usually playing the root. Then you just have to figure out if the chord is major or minor.”

I droned on for a few seconds after that, happily explaining my method, until I noticed that her brow had furrowed.

“I don’t get it,” she said. “What’s a root?”

The curse of knowledge had struck.

I’d mistakenly assumed we knew the same stuff about music. But, unfortunately, no one had ever taught her any music theory. So when I launched into that “root,” “major” and “minor” bit I lost her. Plus I felt like a schmuck.

Of course, when the communication is just between two people the curse of knowledge is easy to overcome. One person just says, “Hold on, I don’t understand. Could you explain that?”

But when we’re speaking to a mass audience, as we do when we’re marketing a brand or product, we don’t have the benefit of immediate feedback that lets us correct things. We have to be clear the first time. There’s no one to say, “You’re talking over my head” if our message bores, confuses or overwhelms our audience.

Picture a minister addressing his congregation. If he forgets that his flock hasn’t attended seminary, he might start peppering his sermons with obscure biblical references that would sail past most of his listeners. Too much of that and they’ll tune out, fidget or fall asleep. But if he remembers to keep it simple – even his Boss spoke in parables – he keeps them engaged.

If we’re going to engage people with our message, and avoid being stung by the curse of knowledge, we need to do the same.

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Related Links

http://www.businesspundit.com/the-curse-of-knowledge-why-communication-at-work-is-sometimes-difficult/

http://www.idratherbewriting.com/2007/01/24/the-curse-of-knowledge-the-more-you-know-the-worse-communicator-you-become/