Starting this article entails the most terrifying view: a blank page. Every project we do at Connect Media starts with a blank page. A blank page offers almost unlimited possibilities for great ideas but also the chance for laughable failures.
But let’s keep thing positive and think of the great ideas that can fit on a blank page. Where exactly do they come from?
Ask someone who doesn’t work in a creative field and you will receive a confused shrug. The same question to someone who boasts being creative will elicit the same reply.
Best case scenario you will receive a very general reaction: “I find inspiration in music/a walk in the park/something generic”. While these statements contain a kernel of truth, we fancy a different metaphor for when we talk about the origin of ideas.
Where ideas come from: picture a cow!
Say you want to position your brand on the market. The person assigned to the project will henceforth be named a Creative Cow (sort of like La Vache Qui Rit but with more angst).
The Creative Cow now stands before a blank sheet of paper – you’re probably picturing her just sitting there, nibbling on a pencil/pen until inspiration strikes, a lightbulb goes on and the Idea-with-a-capital-I spontaneously emerges on paper. Ha! If only…
Nope, the Creative Cow needs to go through 4 stages before the lightbulb turns on:
Gather raw materials
Chew the raw materials
The Ideea-with-a-capital-I shows itself..
The cow gathers raw materials
Ideas never show up in a void. Before getting started on the actual positioning, the Creative Cow needs to gather as much information as possible – raw creative materials, research.
The materials can be specific or general.
are related to your brand, the market, competition, trends, analysis. Before anything else the Creative Cow needs to know everything there is to know about your product/service – sometimes she knows even more than you do. If you don’t know the product inside-out, up and down, left to right, then you have no business being on the pasture of ideas.
General materials are are whatever the Cow has in her creative arsenal prior to the project: general knowledge, trivia, etc. A well-bred Creative Cow has a long list of interests apart from her creative job. You never know when that one article on the space race will provide the necessary inspiration for a furniture company.
The Cow chews the raw materials
So we have a cow with two piles of raw material. What do you think she will be doing now??
That’s right! She will start to chew.
The Creative Cow now begins the long digestive-creative process. She will take all the gathered info, combine it in various models (much like in a puzzle with pieces from separate boxes) and start to jot down all ideas that turn up.
Some ideas will not be great, others will be just stupid – it doesn’t matter. These ideas must be recorded somewhere.
Apparently stupid ideas give the Cow the freedom to create something fantastic in the final phase.
At one point the Creative Cow will reach the stage of “can’t see the forest for the trees”. Everything has been catalogued, chewed, rearranged and the Idea-with-a-capital-I has yet to show up.
Now comes the most difficult part to grasp: NOTHING.
The Cow does NOTHING
We know what you’re gonna say: “What do you mean do nothing? That’s not a job. No one does nothing and something good happens”.
To this we say two things:
- Picture a cow sitting down in a pasture. She’s doing nothing. This is both serene and relaxing. You know a small part of you is envious of the relaxed cow.
- Just because the Creative Cow seems to be doing nothing, that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Everything she has chewed in the previous stage is now being digested. The subconscious brain is now taking over the specific/general materials, all those connections and stupid ideas, and is now running them in the background.
The Idea manifests itself
We can’t exactly say how or why… but after the first 3 steps and some background noise, the Idea-with-a-capital-I will show up.
Sure, it looks like the Creative Cow is cheating and she is doing something else in the mean time cause the Idea-with-a-capital-I doesn’t just show up out of the blue but that is exactly what happens: it can happen on the subway, when you’re shaving, when you’re about to fall asleep, when you’re almost awake or when your pouring yourself a glass of water.
Remember when we said that the Cow’s brain is running in the background? Well, the outcome of this “program” is the surprising arrival of the Idea-with-a-capital-I.
The explanation is that all that chewed-up information is connected in a new and more logical way (sometimes without the Cow even realizing it). After all an idea is nothing more than a new combination of old elements.
The Creative Cow takes the Idea out for a stroll
The last step of the stage is checking the idea’s viability in the real world. Just because an idea is creative and original, it doesn’t mean it’s practical.
If the Idea-with-a-capital-I is stimulating, and can grow on its own and shed some light on possibilities you couldn’t even dream of, then you’re on the right path.
If not, then the Cow will let the program run a little while longer in the background.
So what does the Creative Cow do?
She gathers information. She analyzes them and combines them in new ways. She does NOTHING and lets her subconscious take over. She enjoys the arrival of the Idea-with-a-capital-I.
So in the future when you receive a new idea for your business, don’t just think about the actual proposal – think of the four crucial stages that led to it. Don’t get confused by a Creative Cow doing nothing – those might just be the moments where the Idea-with-a-capital-I shows up.