0:00:03.3 Jacalyn Holsted: Hello, I’m Jacalyn Holsted, and you are listening to On Point Conversations. In this podcast series, we share creative marketing, content and branding strategies that help your business successfully navigate the new normal marketing environment.
0:00:30.9 JH: In today’s podcast, I’m talking about The Technique for Producing Ideas. And while that sounds simple, there is some hard work that goes into producing ideas and then getting them accepted. So today, I’m adding my experience. I have a book that I will also refer to. I am going to be talking about the steps to produce an idea, and then what goes into each step to produce an effective, productive, and unique idea. Currently, I’m reading a really good book, which is called the “Bully Pulpit,” and it’s regarding Roosevelt and Taft.
0:01:15.2 JH: One of the things that struck me as I was thinking about this podcast was that Roosevelt was praising Taft because he was talking about tariff revision. At that time, a tariff revision was really a contentious discussion. It caused a lot of discussion and debate and division in the country, and so, Roosevelt was praising Taft for introducing tariff revisions. And Taft said, and this is a quote, “A man never knows exactly how the child of his brain will strike other people.” So of course, this was written in the early 1900s, but today, we would say a person never knows exactly how the child of their brain will strike other people. You really don’t know how your idea will strike other people. Therefore, you want to look at ways and knowledge about what you’re presenting, where you’re presenting, and how you’re presenting.
0:02:08.3 JH: In my career, I started in the agency business in the late ’80s and I started in a very small agency, and then through my career moved up and up and up into larger agencies with bigger and larger accounts. I was on the account side moving from account executive to account director, director to vice president, and at the pinnacle of what I thought was my career, which wasn’t, because I’ve had many more opportunities since then and a lot of good experiences. I worked for J. Walter Thompson. You might know him as WPP. At that time, they were the largest agency in the world, lots of resources, lots of people, lots of things that you could work on, lots of large companies that were clients. During that time, I came across a book called, “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young. James Webb Young wrote that book. It’s very small, and it’s still in print. The first printing was in 1940, so it was quite some time ago, but it still has a lot of options and things that we can learn today. And I used it with my account people to read it and then to discuss it.
0:03:23.9 JH: Basically, an idea is really the flesh and bones. James Young says, a chemist can inexpensively put together a human body. What he can’t do is spark it with life, and that’s really that creative spark. You can have the idea, but that creative spark that goes into it and the workings of the creative process need to be part of that idea production because you need the creative spark to not only sell the idea, but to have an idea that’s worth selling. And the key, which is the hard work involved, is the knowledge. You will need knowledge which must be digested and eventually it emerges into this form of fresh new combinations and relationships, which makes for a bigger, better idea. Now, you can’t guarantee the quality of your ideas. That’s why I like team, working together in teams with different types of disciplines and different types of people because you get all kinds of different ideas, and you start molding those ideas. But for today, we’re just going to talk about the process of the idea, the beginning process.
0:04:29.3 JH: How I came across this is that someone asked me, “How do you get a creative idea?” And I went back to this book because that’s basically the basis of this book is, how do you formulate your experiences to get a really good idea? And that’s what I’m going to talk about today. The production of an idea is a process. There’s a formula for it so you can get the ideas, but there’s also a very, very important part, and that is the time and the planning and the kind of thinking of these questions and a close, close observation of the work of what your idea and what you’re trying to do with your idea and how you’re trying to produce it. So first, let me say the formula is simple. Most people who hear it will just say, “Oh yeah, I got it, got it.” But the simplest thing can be the hardest thing because of the work to follow. It’s going to require work.
0:05:24.3 JH: Now, in James Young’s book, he refers to the Pareto theory, which is a theory that there were two types of personalities. The speculator and then the rentier. He was a French. Basically, in our vernacular and where we are today, I would call it a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, that means you’re already focused on a particular thing, change is difficult, and you’re fixed on a certain type of way of doing things. If you have a growth mindset, which companies will say they will prefer, you’re looking at ways to grow your own knowledge and to grow your ideas into bigger ideas and to grow your thoughts into things that can be done. They’re innovators. It’s an innovative mindset too. You can train the mind to do that. There are lots of books out there, but don’t spend as much time reading the books as trying to develop it, and that is looking at different things, and how you can train your mind think creatively,
0:06:37.8 JH: Now, we know that an idea is really nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements. You know that saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun”! That’s true. And what basically it is, is you’re taking something and you’re making a new combination. So, when my daughter was little, we would work with Legos. We’d get a box of Legos and there would be a picture on the box, and we could do it that way, and in her ingenious way, and because she was young, she put it together in different ways. And it was actually very, very creative. So, it’s taking something that you might have and know, and you say, “Well, this is not a new idea, but you’re looking at new combinations.” You’re really training the mind to say, “How do I look at this and how do I put this knowledge together?” So, things like, what’s the relationships, what’s the similarities, what’s the differences, and you’re linking your knowledge together. You’re not just taking notes and getting knowledge. You’re taking notes, getting knowledge, and then using that knowledge in a new way.
0:07:40.6 JH: In advertising, I found it interesting because sometimes you could change one word in a headline, and it made about 50% difference in the response rate. I’m saying that because when you go back to looking at your idea or your producing idea and you’re coming up with maybe a question you’re trying to answer, it’s important to focus on how that question is constructed. It’s really constructed as an open-ended question, it’s constructed to elicit response, and it’s also constructed in a way to not, in a lawyer term, lead the witness. So, you’re opening it up, and you’re very careful on how you’re opening it up. So, this is to say that if you’re learning how to do a flexible mindset and you search for relationships between facts, which is really the highest importance in the production of ideas. So, I’m stressing that a lot because that’s important to look at new combinations and realizing that you might be sitting down saying, “Everybody has done this before, but now you’re looking at what are all those variables and how can I put them together differently.” Let’s talk about the steps.
0:08:49.3 JH: Step one is, gather raw material associated with your project, question, or problem. Keep up with what’s going outside in the world and gathering raw material to look at and to pick from. Now, you don’t just hope for inspiration by the way. You’re not just sitting in your office, and you’re going to look and say, “Oh, I’m going to just click around the internet, and something will just strike me.” And I wish it did, but it doesn’t. The point being that you’re going to look at raw material and really take the time to do that research, talk to people, find out more, you’re gathering knowledge. If you’re working with a specific product, you’re getting real knowledge of the product and of the people in relationship to it. Now, it’s not always easy to come by. Someone will say the first thing that comes to their head, and it’s digging and digging and digging and putting your foot into the real world so that you can really know what people are saying, and how they’re using it, and how they might use it differently, and things that you’re looking at for new combinations.
0:09:48.1 JH: This involves observing, getting yourself deeply into that product and marketplace, and that’s what I do. That’s what I do as a consultant. That’s what I did when I worked for agencies, once I had a client that I was working with, and I worked with Hewlett-Packard for many years as a consultant and as an outside advertising and then a marketing strategist, is to really know their audience and their product. And they have lots of different divisions and lots of different products, so it’s a challenge. But knowing who you’re talking to and how and what their perspective is and then what the product is and how it works, and then looking at different ways to put messages together to make something resonate with your potential consumer. And what you find when I do this anyway, when I’m getting all this raw material is that I’m inundated with all this, and I don’t see a pattern quite yet. It takes me some time to look at it, and at first, I think, “Ah, I have all this information, how do I put it all together?” And then it does draw to conclusion because you’ll start to see patterns and relationships, and you’ll be able to come up with a process for yourself that will lend itself to creating those good ideas.
0:10:57.6 JH: It’s sort of like a kaleidoscope, if you remember those or if you played with them. You put them up to the light and you move them around, and then instead of staying in one static category, it’s the same colors and the same movement, but you’re moving it around and you’re getting new patterns, and those colored pieces of glass become different patterns. It’s the same way with advertising or producing an idea or coming up with some new creative solutions, is you’re looking at the same information, but you’re putting it together in different combinations. Now it might be a sizable job gathering that material. It might take some time, but it is definitely worth it to have as much knowledge as you can because once you get into also the explanation of your creative idea, the presentation, you can go back to the knowledge that you’ve achieved and you will get more trust and more credibility by doing that because people are going to know that you’ve looked at the marketplace, you’ve done all the research, you’ve jotted things down.
0:11:54.4 JH: How long does this take to do? Depends. It could be easy depending on what the product or service is. It also could be very involved depending on how involved the product is. And I would say in my experience when I’m working with technical products, I really want to know how that product works for many reasons. I want to talk to the people who developed that product, the engineers, the marketing people, so I can pull everything together. That takes a little bit longer and a little bit more time, but it is worth it.
0:12:28.9 JH: I would like to also encourage you to keep a list because as you’re going through and doing and getting this raw material and you’re talking to people and you’re in the marketplace, other things will arise and you don’t want to forget them, and they might not apply right to what you’re doing today. Capture those, ideas, thoughts, and no matter how random or silly you think it is. just write it down. There might be some headline that you think of or part of one. There might be some copy points you think of, there might be some book you want to read Keep track of that because as you get into gathering all this information, you may find yourself feeling inundated until you can sort through all of it. And that list will help you solidify and produce a foundation for what you’re gathering and add other questions that come up as you’re gathering that information, so you’re not focusing on that question when you should be thinking about other things, but you’ve already written it down and therefore you can move on to another topic or you can keep collecting information.
0:13:17.7 JH: Again, as I said, this could be a long process or a short process. I know everybody would like things fast, but keep in mind, this is your foundation, kind of like building a house. If you don’t have a good foundation, you won’t have a solid house. You have a teetering-tottering kind of thing that is going to sink in the wind or it’s going to be blown over easily, so it is important. That whole step, then step two goes into a whole kind of mental digestive process, and that’s when I’m going to talk about in my next podcast next week is the next step of the mental, really process of step two, synthesizing everything and how it comes together, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. You’ve thrown it all up in the air, you’ve dumped the puzzle out, you have all the pieces, now it’s time to look at how you’re putting those pieces together in relationships.
0:14:11.7 JH: I look forward to talking to you next time. I hope that this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please contact me at… My website is onpointthinking.com. I have a contact page. I read those comments. I send back information on those comments, and sometimes I use those comments to extend my podcast too.
0:14:36.4 JH: Thank you for listening, and I invite you to join me next week as we talk more about specific actions you can take to reach your own business goals. You can find my library of other inspiring podcasts like this one at onpointthinking.com. Again, thank you for listening. This is Jacalyn Holsted at On Point Conversations.