marketing ideas

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I generally work alone. I've never found creative work to be a social process and have what I consider to be my best or most creative, insightful thoughts when I'm alone in quiet world. Most of the folks that I've grown to respect for their creative insights—writers, artists, programmers, musicians, managers—are similar. Any large project can benefit from flashes of creative genius, but waiting for inspiration can rarely sit on the calendar. Brainstorming sessions can help; conceptualizing as a team.

Ideas can come from anywhere. A stray comment, a combination of shapes or colors, a song on the radio, a facial expression- anything can trigger a creative solution in someone's mind. It can happen to anyone, but some people are more open to the experience and are willing to consciously see the connections that make the stimulus valuable. When a team is put together to brainstorm or come up with a concept, there are (or should be) several skill sets represented and all of those different voices are capable of both generating ideas and catalyzing ideas.

Those ideas can appear fully crystalized or evolve from comments or side conversations, but generally, there's a pitch. Someone throws out an idea for comment. Hopefully, there are lots of concepts, lots of ideas being pitched and discussed. If you have a good team, this can be pretty exciting.

I've noticed, in sessions that I've attended now that I'm digital, that software can have a strong effect on how we view ideas. Since I've lived in Photoshop probably 8 hours a day for the past ten years there's a good chance that I'm faster at creating a professional looking visual than most people I collaborate with. If I have a chance to get my hands on Photoshop, the odds are pretty good that I can create a full-blown professional looking visual that represents any idea that I pitch. What that means is that everyone will hear ideas during a brainstorming session but when I pitch my idea, it's backed by ten years of Photoshop experience. People are subconsciously moved by seeing my idea in a professional setting. Many like it, many stop even thinking of other ideas. I've sold it. I've won.

I hope you see what a big problem that is. Anyone in the room without Photoshop skills is left out. The concept behind my work is judged solely on the wow factor added by my Adobe chops. The brilliant programmer's idea may never even be stated. The creative writer has an idea, partially formulated, but doesn't bother shaping it because of the power in the fully formed Photoshop doc.

Too bad. Really. Few have participated, few take ownership, some feel alienated and useless. Some are just glad to have the process over.

What I'd suggest, for any collaborative, creative, conceptual meeting of different minds, is that we leave software out of it. Start with paper, pencils, file cards, whiteboards. Otherwise, you may never see the idea that could've been world class or hear the comment that would have made good great.

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.

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