I just read this great little book (an hour cover-to-cover little) called A Technique for Producing Ideas. Someone handed it to me and I'll be handing it to our Creative Directors tomorrow. In a really simple way, it codifies the process for producing ideas (in advertising, but really could apply anywhere). So simple, that I will attempt to recap in its entirety by memory.
First, this is based on the premise that new ideas are really combinations of old ideas and that the ability to see relationships enables us to create new ideas based from those combinations. Re-read that. It's important.
Then he sets out a 5 step process to create ideas.
1. Gather materials. He breaks this into two categories and notes that this is where most people in the idea-making business cut corners and therefore fall short. Category one is specific. Really get to know your product. Dig deep. Reading a creative brief isn't an end-all-be-all. Taste it. Touch it. Use it. Watch others use it. Read the ingredients list. Read research. Immerse yourself. As a useful tip, he suggests writing tidbits down on 3x5 cards. Personally, I'm a fan of big pads. Category two is a lifelong endeavor. Have a box or file that you throw things that inspire you into. Ads, photos, brochures, bubble gums wrappers, fortune cookie fortunes... when your drinking buddy says something profound at 1:00 AM, scribble it on a bar napkin and throw it in the file. I'd like to think this file. I'd like to think this blog is part of my file.
2. Take all your 3x5 cards. Mix and match them. Look for relationships. You're not looking for ideas here. You're looking for half-baked ideas, snippets of ideas, interesting thoughts that could maybe, maybe not become fodder for ideas later on. Quality is not important here. Write them all down. Do it until you're tired. Then do it some more.
3. Go to the movies. Take a nap.
4. Pop. An idea will come into your head, usually when you least expect it. Write this down and bask in your genius.
5. Share your idea with others. Probably isn't quite as genius as you first thought in step four, but ideas are cultivated not grown. A good idea will inspire others to add to them. Be prepared to let them evolve.
That's it. Recipe for creative genius. Certainly worth an hour of your life if you're in this biz.