by Guy Mastrion, Chief Global Creative Officer, Palio
Some of the many things we tend to do with our global creative raves is to always try to bring fresh voices into the room, find fresh locations, tear down barriers and fail rapidly through hundreds of ideas until we succeed. And then, with a smaller portion of the group actively debating and editing the ideas, we push harder and deeper until we arrive at a set of discreet ideas. This is a lot of heavy lifting for the people involved, and one of the key aspects of making brainstorming work is to create a safe environment that encourages the rapid failure and spontaneity needed to spark fresh ideas.
But also there has to be a method to the madness.
Critical thinking is essential to success. An open critique that pressure tests the ideas through effective moderation of a strategic discussion is always needed. Effective critique is a lost art. Too often misunderstood and mislabeled as negative thinking, critique – when understood and harnessed as essential to the evaluation and elevation of ideas – plays a key role in all aspects of business, not just ideation. If the groups are a relatively small (10-15 people), then I think open critique can be effectively moderated. If your group is bigger than this, select a smaller, cross-sectional subgroup as your critical thinkers.
When brainstorming fails, when ideation fails, they can fail for countless reasons, many more reasons than those that exist to support why they succeed. There is a fine balance that is very difficult to maintain. Ideas are fragile things that are often doomed before they even begin to live due to the many, ultimately oppressive things an idea must overcome.
Some of the more common bailey wicks include briefs that are unclear, with too many objectives or key communication thoughts, making it near impossible to judge the success of any given idea. This problem is a sure sign the brief has become a parking lot for failure.
Ideas can also suffer from a lack of alignment across team members, where personal bias and opinion, no matter how worthy or potentially insightful, conflict with the tenets of the brief (assuming you have a solid brief).
Ideas also suffer from their own complexity, or I should say from becoming more complex. In a brainstorming session, it is easy to lose the big ideas.
Let me explain. Big ideas very often at first seem quite small and are easily overlooked. A word and a picture, one or the other, sitting alone on a big white sheet of paper can be the most fearsome of ideas. Other ideas, by comparison, can seem bigger at first because they have more going on they seem more dynamic, when in fact, they may simply be loaded down with what amounts to little more than window dressing. These are complexities and complex ideas most often have much less ability to be plastic. What do I mean by plastic? It’s the ability to be moldable, to move with your brand, and more important with how your consumer perceives, experiences, and ever more – communicates with your brand. So, the thought of big ideas being plastic is something to keep in mind – this is just one word to help describe a potentially big idea. It’s not the only word. The point is that a simple idea is an elegant solution. The simple idea – the big idea – is an idea that grows in meaning, depth, and definition the more it is used. When we work up a potentially big idea through our 360 worksheet, it is not limited by this exercise, but is expanded as a result of it. Lesser ideas reveal their vulnerabilities as a result of this exercise.
Ernest Hemingway said something about writing that I think applies to all creativity, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Coming up with the big idea is not easy, nor is it any easier to recognize the big idea when you see it. This is one less obvious reason why time is such an important factor in creativity. The big idea might be the first idea you come up with, but it might also take days of ideation to see its true value.
If we approach our every day as a brainstorm, days lived without fear of being “wrong,” where failure is understood as part of a larger success – working together – we would more easily and consistently craft work of lasting value.
Highly functioning, idea-driven companies are built on this culture. They also have discipline and order and process and financial goals, but those things are all used to support the creation of a great product and not as rate limiting factors. When these instruments of any successful business become the business itself, then no manner of ideation will ever be truly and consistently successful.
In the end, culture trumps strategy, process, execution, and ideation. Even the most skillful and creative brainstorm session will fail to deliver success if the culture of the company (or teams involved) is not built on an open mind with complete alignment on the goal to be achieved.
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.