Saturday, May 28, 2011

A new idea? Well okay, just this once.

I'll admit, I'm addicted to ideas. Adrenaline-laced epiphanies. It just took one, and I was hooked. I want more. 

It's not just the idea itself, it's the whole process. 
The inception of an idea. The rush you get when you make an idea better. The contagiousness of a good idea on the loose.

Work backed by a powerful idea, is no longer work. It's a mission. 
You can't help yourself. You're obsessed with it. The project seems to almost effortlessly manifest itself. (Though you've no doubt lost hours in it.) You want it to be good, with all your being. It's part of you and your team. It's like Christmas morning when it all comes together, and you can't wait for the world to open it. 

Making the decision to work for better ideas is not an easy road. 
But, if you seek them, the work down the line will also be better. And often easier. If the idea is big enough, it becomes a master plan. Executed in many ways. Schedules struggle to account for the upfront ambiguity better ideas require. The cycles between engaging and disengaging from the project. Better ideas usually happen somewhere in between. Push past adequate or even good. That's where better lives.

Do you dare put yourself out there? No strings, spotters, or nets.
You have to think like an entrepreneur. Along the way, you might fail. Maybe a lot. But then again, you might succeed. In a much bigger, more meaningful way.

"In bold projects, it's a fine line between a big win and a total crash and burn. Reason? Success happens at the bleeding edge." – Scott Belsky
Sally Hogshead has a great post on whether it's better to broadly appeal to the masses or truly engage a smaller audience… really, really well. Vanilla versus pistachio. Safe and effective or bold and adventurous? Both have their place, but yeah, I'd rather go with pistachio.

Will everyone get the idea? Does it matter if the ones who get it, really get it? And come back for more. Because they're hooked. And they can't help themselves.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Accidentally innovating with purpose.

At our creative meeting, I issued a team-brainsqualling challenge. The task had absolutely nothing to do with anything we were working on. It wasn't supposed to. We had no reason to get hung up on preconceived notions or restrictive details.

Everyone split up into three teams. No one HAD to do anything, but they knew the other teams might be presenting their ideas the following week. Implied group competition, strengthening team camaraderie.

Once the first email started, the ideas kept building. Team member's strengths enhanced each new revelation. Programmers, designers, and writers all equally participating. Before long, no one knew who's idea it really was. It became the entire team's idea. And everyone involved felt passionate about it. People lit up as they walked through details. It wasn't about winning, there was genuine excitement in hearing each team's thoughts.

The exercise was from Caffeine for the Creative Team. The challenge: to conceptualize a piece of playground equipment for today's kids – incorporating relevant technology.

Teams tapped into their own nostalgia, their kid's passions, and their technological prowess. One idea harnessed energy. Another focused on atmosphere and environment – for the kids and adults. And another team created an elaborate maze, laid out with a new mind-mapping program they found.

How we work together can make or break a team. Everyone works differently, but the team has to come together at various points in the process. Building excitement and expanding on thoughts. It should never be individual against individual. Ideas should evolve in a back-and-forth manner. You face your inner critic, refine as needed, and then throw it out into the group. Repeat as necessary.

Before the team's presentations, I asked a couple of questions with some interesting outcomes. First of all, there was no budget and ridiculousness was encouraged. Even without parameters – everyone imagined something that was safe for kids to use, could "probably" be built, met a business or health objective, and solved a problem. In fact, some of the thinking could be the seed of an idea for some of our client's companies.

Creative teams should take time to play every now and then. It reminds us why we love what we do and that there are always unexplored possibilities. Who knows, it could accidentally be innovative.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

The surface is deep.

The surface glimmers with intrigue and anticipation. It promises possibility and invites speculation. It curiously holds our attention. Begging us to look closer. Denying us details. Leaving us wanting more.

Disenchantment is in the details.
How long can you hover above something without getting mired in mundane minutiae? Will you stave off reality's inevitable infiltration? Can you hold the spotlight while the next big thing's shadow creeps closer. And closer. Until darkness overwhelms.

Advertising varnishes the surface.
Something forgotten becomes relevant. A product in a sea of like-products becomes the shiniest option. With extreme sheen and authenticity, a brand becomes the generic name for an entire category.

From the outside in.
Good advertising changes the perception of what's underneath the surface. Great advertising captures and celebrates real value below the fold. A new surface attracts an empowered audience of brand advocates. Prepare to deliver, or frivolously step aside.

Surface knowledge.
In Wired UK, Russell M. Davies has an interesting take on knowledge depth. He explores surface fascination – ironically deep for creative people. By overlapping surfaces, they create something the world swears they've never seen before. Maybe they haven't. Maybe they have. Either way, it sure is shiny. Let's get a closer look.

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