Blowing gently on the sparks of new ideas

May 20, 2013

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow.” Ovid

We’d all like to think that we have what it takes to recognise a genius new idea. However, Post-it notes and the wheel aside, many new approaches to old problems risk getting sidelined on the grounds that they don’t fit with our thinking about where the solution will come from, or even how we’re defining the problem.

There aren’t any hard and fast guidelines about what to filter out and what to pursue, either in research, strategy development, or marketing solutions. It’s often worth pursuing some of the detours to see if they lead anywhere – and coming at our problems from perspectives that don’t presuppose we’re going to immediately recognise the solution. 

Many great marketing and strategic solutions are disruptive – interrupting the status quo about what a product can deliver in a category (Virgin Airlines), or the way it’s packaged (pouch packs of yoghurt for kids), or marketed (flash mobs), even down to the words and the conventions that are used to describe it (vitamin water). Until they become accepted as part of a new way of talking about the product, these approaches can be fragile and delicate; they sometimes need our attention (and a bit of humility) to gently blow on the sparks and see if they’ve got the power to ignite into powerful new ideas with the potential to disrupt and redefine.