There are no shortage of ideas.
There are no new ideas.
I’ve heard both, veraciously argued in many settings. In reality, of course, there are always new ideas, and indeed no real shortage of them. They are just hard to come by… perhaps.
When I sat in a programmer’s chair in a radio station, there was always a desire for creating something “new and shiny”. Indeed in the days of GCap it was a mission, “We Love New” in Creation- the programming and content arm, and a strive to always do things differently, at times it would seem even if established way something being done worked perfectly well. At least that was my perception at the time. Of course coming up with something groundbreaking and new is good if you possibly can, and not easy. The truth is that even a slight tweak and improvement is worth the effort to make it happen, and I think the real desire behind that “We Love New” mantra. That I could get behind- doing something the same way just because thats the way it has always been done, and going about it unquestioningly is not the best strategy. It’s just as bad as changing things for changes sake. A blinkered progression of the same old same old without the desire, effort or push to take a fresh look is not healthy.
Where do the ideas come from? One of my regular podcast listens (PIVOT with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway) touched on this very topic the other week. Their guest Matt Richtel spoke about his new book “INSPIRED: Understanding Creativity: a journey through art, science, and the soul“. He mentioned something which I’ve always believed as true- ideas come to you when you allow your brain to wander freely, unfettered by the guilt of thought and need to ‘come up with a thing NOW!’. Chances are that organising a meeting in a white walled office with a dry wipe board to brainstorm some new ideas is not going to give you a list of cracking suggestions. The environment and the pressure is not conducive to creative thought. I have to admit that I have done those things all too often myself, and its always out of necessity of timing, convenience of the workplace or a pressured timeline. Thanks to the talented bunch of people I have worked with I’ve always come away with a few useful things, but it took a toll I think on the creative power stored in the team.
Knowing the time of day when you are personally at your most creative is a good to understand. Are you at your peak in the morning, afternoon or evening? Some people I know like to look through the detail of an issue last thing before sleep, and then let their creative, unshackled mind work it all out in their sleep. They wake with a new idea or answer. Matt Richtel talked about the “flow state” and whilst it can seem a bit “tree hugging”, I get the idea. Your rational mind has a trigger of guilt when you think- you evaluate the thought, the reasoning, the time taken to spend on that thought and that impacts your creative process. It limits the ability to wander and jump from idea to idea and just muse. Apparently the period of time just before sleep is an example of when you have thought freedom, judgment free. Lying in the dark before going to sleep, there are no consequences from the thoughts, no time wasted thinking about them, and so you think and wander unfettered by the usual restrictions. I’m not suggesting we hold all ideas meeting just before bed, or install bunk beds into the white walled, dry marker board filled rooms! Not that it would work anyway, but if that is the best time for you to think without self judgment and criticism, just think how far removed it is from those meeting rooms and flipchart festooned rooms.
When I was in GWR Group, we worked with a consultant we met at a Morning Show Bootcamp for presenters and programmers in the US. Bill McMahon created a process for creating content and delivering it, called the Authentic Radio Personality (Now renamed Authentic Personality©). My job with the founding group bringing these thoughts to the GWR Group was to work with Bill and create the UK, de-Americanised notes, forms, paperwork and process. Now, much has been said and thought about ‘ARP’ and it isn’t a panacea for all ills or content creation. The process application within the group was also a bit “counter creative” perhaps too (we may have loved new but we also loved a process a bit too much too!). Ultimately the nucleus of the ideas in ARP/AP were and are, absolutely sound. What has this to do with where ideas come from? One of the first things that we taught, and Bill taught, was to be more aware, not just of what is happening around you, but also how you personally react to things when you see them.
When looking for content choices, link ideas, concepts etc, observing things as you go about your day is important, but also to note and recognise what and how you react. How did you feel or think at the time. Its something which takes a time to perfect, and is almost like trying to view yourself, viewing what you are seeing and making notes on how you react. Ideas come from being more observant and from being more aware of reactions and feelings.
Its important to have time to create and of course that isn’t always possible. A sales person wanting an idea for a client yesterday, isn’t going to wait for you to sleep on it, dream a bit and wander to get some great ideas. The perfect world and the real world always conflict but its important to have enough time to create something worthwhile. I always use to say, “you can have a bad idea now, or a good one later”. To be fair quite often the retort back would be that they want a great one right now! Typical!
The more you allow your mind to create and have the freedom to, judgment free, think and wander- the more you have a bank of decent ideas or thoughts so when the timeframe is short and the urgency is there for something stellar, you have something to fall back on from when you had time to think that you can use.
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