Sunday, April 30, 2006

Where Will Your Next Big
Marketing Idea Come From?

Breakthrough thinking is a challenge. We get mired down in "the way we do things around here" and some of our toughest problems persist, starved of new ideas.

I ran into a post by Bryan Coffman with a great example of an idea generation technique similar to one we used at my agency for years, adapted from Doug Hall's Eureka Methodology. It is useful at times to look outside your organization for a stimulus that enables you to see a solution that was totally invisible to you. Using stimulus materials was a basic concept of our ideation sessions. Put two random objects on a table and use them to stir the brain cells.

The Hairpin Curve

For example, if the problem is finding ways to improve sales, the problem solver might select a concept at random like a hairpin and put that together with the problem and see what emerges as those two concepts are held together in thought.
  1. Hairpins keep hair in place. Maybe we need to put salespeople in place at key accounts.
  2. Hairpins have those little waves on one side. Why? Maybe they help hold the hair and keep the hairpin from sliding out. Maybe our sales people need three or four key holds that they can use to keep accounts.
  3. There's another type of hairpin that operates like a clothespin--squeeze one end to open the jaws and then let go so the jaws can clamp down on the hair.
On and on the ideas can flow.

The process has, according to Coffman, two side benefits:

First, the people engaging in the process use the stimulus material to force themselves to think differently about their challenge. The stimulus helps open up new domains in the solution space.

Second, along the way, we frequently experience lots of ideas that lead to nowhere. But if wecan become comfortable with that feeling, eventually we will let go of a lot of the fear and tension that inhibits creativity. That eventually sets up the environment for a creative idea to surface.


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