Been a croupier on a cruise ship?
Taken apart a vacuum cleaner?
Been CEO of a start-up while raising twins?
Road-tripped cross country on a Harley?
The experiences you’ve had are the storehouse you pull from when you sit down to come up with brilliant ideas. So the younger you are, the less raw material you have to work with. And right there is the biggest trap I see young creatives fall into.
They read company websites, check out their social sites, google some competitors, troll around a little. They skip over the real research and jump right into coming up with ideas. But if you don’t get any further than what’s on your screen, your greatest risk is coming up with ideas that are just as flat. I see it time and time again.
Want to do brilliant work? The most valuable thing you can do is:
True insights, big and small, are uncovered in the conversations you have with people. Often, the real pearls don’t even come from the questions you ask. They happen in the corners of your conversation – an aside that catches your ear, or a way of saying something you’ve never heard before which is suddenly inspiration for a tagline.
Working on client brief for a vitamin or an acne cream? Stand in a drugstore aisle and talk to the people grabbing bottles off the shelf! An urgent care clinic? Sit in the waiting room and chat up the receptionist and the people with broken fingers (they’ll appreciate the distraction). Selling sneakers and you’re not 15? Go hang out at a Footlocker or a skate park. Working on a startup that sells jaunty ferret apparel? You get the idea…
The great Bill Bernbach said, “A creative person can’t jump from nothing to a great idea. He needs a springboard of information.” He didn’t need to say get out and talk with people, because back then you couldn’t troll your phone while sitting at an artisanal doughnut shop. If he were alive today, he’d scream at his lazy creatives, “Get off your duff and be your own Google!”
That’s where you’ll uncover the true insights that are the grist for brilliant ideas. For sure, this kind of learning takes more energy, but…
Coming soon: “How to interview people to get great stuff.” It’s a learned skill – ask any journalist. I’ll share some great insight-uncovering tips from the pros.