We are in the idea business. Actually, we’re in the business of executing ideas in service of very specific goals. But, to do so, we need to generate a large number of ideas. And, to do that really well, we spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to get to the greatest number of ideas and then how to separate the good — and even the great ideas — from the right ideas.
What makes an idea the right idea? It’s the idea that stands in service of our client’s goal and fits the brand. There are plenty of ideas that are right for one or the other, but not both. We are ruthless. We do not fall in love with our ideas; we examine them with a hyper-critical eye and fill our virtual garbage cans with good and even great ideas that aren’t right.
We spend a lot of time thinking about where ideas come from (everywhere) and no time thinking about who ideas come from (everyone). Because the thing we know about ideas is that they don’t come from any single person. Sure, an individual may actually articulate the idea that turns out to be right, but that thought did not simply spring unaided from the person. When we reverse engineer an idea’s origin, we find it is always inspired by somebody else’s thought, which was inspired by somebody else’s, and on and on. The “Hey, I have an idea,” moment is not really a “eureka” moment at all. Rather, it’s the product of many moments and many people. It’s the product of conversation, collaboration and even competition. The person who actually says it just happens to be the conduit for that idea.
The idea doesn’t stop there. As we apply it — as we get into the details — it morphs again and again, driven by good questions, logistical realities, and by the goal and the brand. Always the goal and the brand. The idea exists to serve nothing else.
Where do ideas really come from? They come from listening. Listening to our clients, to one another, to trusted advisors, and even to the noise that surrounds us all. At heart, we are in the listening business.