Where do great ideas come from?

Where do great ideas come from?

I’m often asked where an idea came from or what the inspiration was behind a concept. There are plenty of theories, dare I say “ideas”, about the origin of ideas. If you could write a manual with a simple, step-by-step guide for thinking up the next great idea it would be an instant best seller. I might have a crack at it sometime but, for now, I’ll just capture some thoughts.

As one of those lucky individuals who makes a living out of thinking up ideas, I’m a firm believer that ideas don’t just happen out of nowhere or suddenly appear if you bang your head against the desk till it hurts. All ideas need a catalyst.

Great ideas are the result of a multitude of outside influences that started to shape each of us even before we were born. Millions of moments have happened and memories cherished throughout our lives — and they’ve all been filed in that infinitely scalable but unstable solid-state drive we call the subconscious.

Our first day at school, first date, first big mistake, even our first speeding ticket have all contributed to ‘what we are’. ‘What we are’ is completely individual, and totally unique. We all have different backgrounds, different levels of education, life experiences, interests, opinions and different preferences. We’re continually absorbing what’s happening around us, even if we’re not aware of it, whether we’re on the train, on the running machine or on a big night out. Our outside influences all come together and the result is ‘what we are’.

In marketing, ‘what we know’ is also vitally important for creating great ideas. ‘What we know’ comes from the insights we gain from researching the competition, exploring markets, interrogating the offer, asking the right (often difficult) questions, listening to the answers and really understanding the customer.

When the raw ingredients of ‘what we are’ and ‘what we know’ are mixed together in just the right quantities interesting things start to happen. But for great ideas to develop we need another powerful ingredient to complete the creative cocktail: a shared ambition.

Like all the best cocktails, ‘what we are’ and ‘what we know’ should be shaken, and probably stirred too, before being shared with like-minded people. Because we’re all unique, and we all process information in different ways, when we connect our thoughts in clever combinations it creates a catalyst for really great, creative ideas to happen.

So, who’s up for a full-on, top-shelf ideas session*?

*Have fun, but please think responsibly.

Rich Claridge