This post is one in a series from a presentation on Creative Slip-Ups: The 11 Most Common Mistakes in Brainstorming. The introduction to the series is here.
The slip-up: People avoid risky ideas.
I want to invent a Creative Thermometer. A “Creativometer.”
I’d use it by jabbing the pointy end into an idea and telling its temperature. Instead of Celsius or Fahrenheit, it’d use adjectives.
At the cold end of the scale, it’d read YAWN, FORMULA and SAFE. As you graduate up the shaft, the words change temperature to INTERESTING, UNUSUAL and EDGY. At the top end, the words WOW, ABSURD and OMG.
Royalties toward my retirement aside, the Creativometer would show that ideas suffering from a serious lack of intensity are the kind of ideas that don’t create change. It’d remind people truly Big Ideas are found at the top end, rarely in the middle, and never at the bottom. It’d prove the ideas in the cool bottom are the ones approved only by clients who you don’t want around long-term. They aren’t profitable, you won’t be able to retain or recruit staff to work on them, and they’ll eventually drive you insane.
I’d use it most often at the end of brainstorms to demonstrate how people – consciously or unconsciously – avoid risky ideas. My gizmo would show how they push aside hot salsa ideas and go instead for the ideas which are boring, high-fiber and taste of foam-core.
Ah jeez, I can hear your screams from here.
“My client says they want risk ideas, but they really don’t!”
“Clients don’t buy risky ideas!”
“Risky ideas more likely to fail!”
“My conservative client only wants ideas that are safe!”
Maybe. Then again, if you don’t ever stick your neck out and give your client a truly big idea, I’ll guarantee there’s someone else out there who’d be happy to.
The solution: Stick your neck out!
Literally. At the end of your brainstorming, look for the one idea that’s truly pushes the proverbial envelope. If you don’t have one, you aren’t finished brainstorming. I don’t care if you never sell the risky idea to this client. You need to find it to practice creating risky ideas for another client. If you rarely (or worse, never) come up with ideas that challenge or provoke, you won’t suddenly be able to do so when you want. Like everything in life, creativity takes practice.
Second, if you do have risky ideas, ask yourself: why am I ignoring it in favor of something else? If the idea isn’t yet “right,” then improve it. But, if it is right, then read on …
The easy part is brainstorming the idea. The hard part is selling it. So, be prepared.
Talk to the experts. Never sell a big idea cold. You need endorsement. Two types of people influence the Decision Maker: Coaches and Detractors. Invite both types to see the idea, ask their opinion of the idea’s strengths and weaknesses, then improve.
If you can, reach out to Detractors over Coaches. Coaches will always love and complement you. (They’re “professional moms.”) Detractors, once they see you’re genuinely listening to their comments, can become the strongest type of Coach.
Prepare your ammunition. The Decision Maker performs their role by balancing reward and risk. You should do the same before meeting face-to-face. Prepare your argument. Get your facts in order. Think Pro vs. Con. Prove that the big idea can and should be done. Find case studies. When you get your one-minute spotlight, you’d not only better shine, you’d better look like the worthy adversary.
More often than not, you may not sell the Decision Maker on the idea, but at least you’ll show you mean business. Perhaps next time, they’ll give you one more inch of respect when you bring them another big idea.
Put together an issues management plan. Every big idea needs a plan to manage the issues. If your big idea is truly daring (bravo!), think about all of the ways it could go wrong. Plan how to manage the issues. Better yet, pretend it’s your money and personal reputation on the line, not your client’s. How would you protect yourself?
What other tactics have you tried to ensure you’re bringing risky ideas to the table? What other ways have you prepared the path to sell the idea to the decision maker?
Final slip-up: Make the invisible visible.