Ideation within the marketing space is starting to shift away from the “magic bullet” approach, which I would define as follows: the dependence on one, or maybe two, individuals to come up with a brilliant idea. The advertising world historically runs on the belief in a magic bullet. An art director and writer is assigned, they are briefed and they are expected to crack it. The agency can’t afford for them not to crack it, resources are so tight these days.
But, as anyone who can turn on a light bulb knows, ideation from a collective, or crowdsourcing, has changed all that. In fact, I founded Ideasicle based on an even newer concept I call “Expert Sourcing.” It’s inspired by the crowdsourcing model, but it is not crowdsourcing, exactly. We aim our briefs at a pre-defined, and contained, collective of brilliant marketing minds versus aiming them at the masses. And our Experts work together in teams as opposed to the crowdsourcing model, where the participants compete against each other.
However, what they both share is this: they depend on a collective of rapid-firing ideators, not a single magic bullet. And this new way of ideating has created the need for a new skill set.
You’d be amazed how often one Expert will faithfully post “a thought,” not a complete idea, not even knowing what to do with it, and then another Expert will swoop in, be inspired by that thought and take it to greater places. That is the magic of Ideasicle. It’s inspiration soup.
But I have found that with that soup comes a new skill set that has nothing to do with coming up with ideas: the ability to quickly know a great idea when you see one. In a typical project at Ideasicle, I’d venture we end up with 75-100 ideas/thoughts over the project’s course. We’ll present 8-12 to the client. My primary role has become to not only read the ideas as they are, but to really see the ideas as they could be. And do it almost viscerally. Our model promises speed, so the idea either moves me or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, I move on. If it does, I’ll develop it for presentation. I’ve grown to depend on my gut for such things. And, as Sally Hogshead so perfectly put it recently on Facebook, “Trust your gut. It’s smarter than you.”
That it is.
But you might say this new “skill” is nothing new at all. Creative directors make idea decisions every day at ad agencies. And you’re right, they do. But they are working with far fewer ideas per project, from far fewer people. Not 75-100 ideas from Experts like we do. Or tens of thousands from the masses using crowdsourcing, which, honestly, sifting through makes me nauseous to even think about.
And this skill is not just for people like me at companies like Ideasicle. It’s clients, too. If they want more ideas (and judging from my “test market” of the last 7 months, they most definitely do), then they’ll need to know a great idea when they see one. Otherwise I may as well present blank slides.
I do not know how to develop this skill. I do not know how to teach it. I’m still working on it myself. But I know this: some people can do it and some can’t. So I believe it’s a topic worth exploring further.
I believe it in my gut.