06 March 2018 Five Ways to Spark a Creative Idea

Rod Clausen is one half of the Creative Director team at Icon Agency. Here he shares his top tips for curating a killer creative idea. 

I'm enjoying coffee machine small talk when a young member of the PR team hits me with an open question. 'How do creatives come up with ideas?'.

Wow — good question. Where do you start? Can I answer this before my double shot is ready? No! But it's got me musing. 

Ideation isn't owned by creative. New ideas are at the heart of everything we do and we all need to embrace creative problem-solving. But just how do you spark an idea when you're starting out?

There's a billion places to start and I'm not going to scratch the surface here. But just say you've been given free rein to unlock a creative challenge and you're staring at a blank page, here's a few places to begin digging.

Load up

Some of the best ideas come when we aren't thinking about the problem. How is this possible? My creative partner and I call it 'loading up'. When we first get a brief, we take a deep dive into the brief. Pull it apart, Google it, look at the research, learn everything in a compression session — a bit like cramming. Fill your head with insights, the background info and prime your mind to let it flow. Before you know it, you're bolting things together laterally and the ideas begin to come. It could be in the shower or on the tram. The trick is to immerse yourself in the problem and then let your subconscious do the work.

Look up

One of my heroes is advertising legend Sir John Hegarty. He has a theory that there's no such thing as originality and that everything we create is derivative and based on something that has gone before. One way or another, the world around us often holds the inspiration behind a great idea. Look up from the keyboard, observe what's going on and take inspiration from the world around you. What's happening in popular culture, trending in the news, music, art or film. New ideas often borrow, blend or collide with other ideas. New influences, combined with new problems, create new connections and fresh thinking. As long as your eyes are open.

Embrace your inner child

Remember when life was innocent and we weren't weighed down with work, bills or a looming deadline? Your imagination was on fire, right? As Picasso said. 'Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up'. When you want to get creative, take a lead from a kid. They have no fear of being wrong. Nothing is too dumb or too crazy. They're not trying to impress with their intelligence. Look at a five-year-old drawing their ideas. They don't sensor them. They let their mind run free with no inhibitions. Nothings impossible, and they come up with some pretty wild, thought provoking stuff. Now you know where creatives get it.

Ask why

Something else that kids do is ask why — a lot! Why? Questions help us make sense of the world around us. Why is the grass green? Why do dogs bark? Why does Trump use twitter? Asking why over and over is one way to the bottom of a problem. Why is that? Because curiosity uncovers new answers. How does that lead to progress? Curious people are more likely to explore new paths, challenge the status quo and change the world. See what I'm doing?

Be someone you know

More often than not, the creative challenge we're trying to address doesn't apply to you. It could be someone of a different life stage, gender or mindset. If you're going to change their thinking or behaviour you need to see the world through their lens. I like to think of someone I know who fits the target audience. What would they do if they were faced with this argument. How would I float their boat? Surprise them? Change their perspective? Put their glasses on. Think of their traits. Be that person or go talk to them. Their life experience will give you plenty of different ideas.

When it comes to the crunch, sparking new ideas is all about forcing yourself to change your thought patterns and create new connections. Immersing yourself in the challenge, drawing inspiration from the world, losing inhibition, asking why and seeing the world from a different perspective are good starting points. Just open your mind and practice thinking differently.

Did I mention coffee helps? Gimme that double shot!

Check out some of the creative work Rod has recently worked on here.