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How to develop ideas

Sometimes we need new ideas, not necessarily game changers, just refreshingly relevant tweaks. But mostly we don’t produce or support such ideas. Why is this?

Mainly what stops us is a series of misconceptions about the nature of creativity or innovation. Here’s a list of myths; there may be more. 1.We do our job, we think of creativity as belonging to another category of work 2.We think creativity is to be bought or hired from an agency of some sort 3.We think creative people are different, they must wear trainers to your black tie event 4.We confuse creativity with creative execution, so we think because we can’t design or write copy we can’t be creative. 5.We see creativity as requiring immense freedom and who knows how much time 6.We fail to realise that a new way of testing an IT installation can exhibit just as much creativity as a new product or TV commercial

Some of these myths apply to the commercial world but also to the broader creative domain. Ask Michelangelo how much freedom his commissioners gave him. Ask any novelist whether they feel truly free when it comes to novel number two.

So, for our world, here’s a solution. The first thing to accept is that creativity is a process that takes you from a defined business issue, problem or opportunity to a workable solution within time and cost limits. Here are the steps: 1.Define the brief – write it, scrutinise it. It must be clear, state the objective, the parameters and the expected output. Tell the teams you expect them to develop their solutions between now and the pitch session 2.Create pairs within the business or involve outside parties if your organisation or department is small 3.Make the pairs interesting, an experienced adviser and a school leaver 4.Allow five days then take their proposals with a bit of ceremony – at a pitch session, with a team of “judges” and give a prize or two.

For this to work you must be plausible and the brief must be real. As well as generating a whole raft of ideas, you’ll find that some of the teams show talent that you and they had kept hidden. So, it can be motivational, even exhilarating. Of course there are lots of techniques to generate ideas but try the simple version first.

The core to all this is to ask them for ideas.

Ask them to be creative. It may be the first time they have been asked.

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