Monthly Archives: November 2014

3 of My Favourite Idea Generation Techniques

Here’s 3 foolproof creative exercises you can turn to when you’re looking to inject a bit more lateral thinking into your workshop and kick-start some new ideas

1. Random Words

One of the simplest and most most effective techniques. This is how it works.

1. Pick out a random word from a bag. I tend to use those magnetic words you can buy to create poems for fridges

2. Write down all the associations you have with that word

3 Use these associations to generate some new ideas i.e. they become the springboard for some lateral leaps

It works because of it’s random nature – it stimulates your mind in new and interesting ways. It’s also really quick to do and can take you into some new and unpredictable directions.


2. Rule Breaking

If you’re looking for radical / breakthrough ideas, then this is a great technique to use

1. Write down all the beliefs / assumptions / conventions that surround the problem you’ve been dealing

2. Come up with some new ideas that break or challenge these ‘rules’

It’s great because it’s really simple to do, uses no props and encourages people to generate some challenging ideas. It can also be quite amusing and liberating as people often generate ludicrous, outrageous or immoral ideas – which can often act as a bridge to a truly great idea.

3. Corporate Takeover

This is a very ‘safe’ exercise to undertake in that everyone finds it easy to do, even if they’re unfamiliar with creative workshops and you always get some great ideas. This is how it works.

1. In teams ask people to select a brand they admire. Alternatively, you could simply allocate the team an interesting brand that you’ve pre-selected

2. Ask people to bring the brand to life – what it’s famous for, it’s values, it’s personality, etc

3. Finally imagine that your company has been taken over by this brand. How would they solve the problem / come up with new ideas

It’s great because there is quite a short lateral leap required to come up with new ideas, people love talking about other brands and it helps release them from their own corporate shackles

There are many more idea generation techniques I could talk about, but when I’m facilitating creative workshops, I often use at least one of these. Why not give them a go!


The Ingredients of a Great Story


I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about the ‘secret’ of great storytelling and how the marketing community can get better at creating and delivering compelling narratives for both internal audiences (the organization) and external audiences (the consumer)

These are (I think) the key ingredients of a great story

1. You’re Rooting For the Protagonist

By protagonist, I mean either the brand at the centre of the story or the consumer you’re discussing. The audience needs to feel empathy and truly care about what happens to them, otherwise the story won’t be compelling. This doesn’t mean that the hero of the story needs to be flawless and attractive. However, we need to be ‘on their side’, rooting for them.

2. There’s Tension and Drama

A great story can’t be one-paced otherwise we lose interest. There needs to be, a fight against the odds or a big obstacle that needs to be overcome, some scary bits..whatever is appropriate. We enjoy being on an emotional rollercoaster. We enjoy being put through the mill

3. You Can Relate to It

There should be anecdotes, cultural references, scenarios that the audience can relate to, so they feel yes….that’s so true. So you need to have a clear picture of who we’re writing for. We also love familiar stories – good defeating evil, boy meets girl, winning against the odd. Stick to familiar themes and narratives. We never get bored with them

4. You’re Working For Your Lunch

Don’t lay out the plot or the characters too obviously. Don’t over-explain. Respect the intelligence of the audience and allow them to work it out for themselves, join up the dots and make the connections. However, don’t go to the other extreme so people so feel confused or lost. Try and strike a balance.

5. There’s Structure and Resolution

Make sure there’s a beginning a middle and an end. Tie up all the loose ends so there’s a definiitive ending – ideally a happy one – but at least make sure there’s no ambiguity. We hate it when we’ve invested time and effort in a story and there are too many loose ends

As Seth Godin said (see previous post) telling authentic, compelling, stories that people are prepared to believe and share is what great marketing is all about. We should all get better at creating them.

Review of Seth Godin’s ‘All Marketers Tell Stories’


Books by Seth Godin are generally worth reading. They’re short, insightful and provocative

This book basically says two thing

1. people are irrational in the way they act and behave ie they lie to themselves

2. the best marketers tell authentic, compelling, stories that people are prepared to believe and share

All good stuff. However, I didn’t find it as engaging as his previous books as I don’t think he’s saying anything particularly new or ground-breaking. Also his examples and anecdotes are a bit erratic and disconnected, as if he’s pulled together previous blog posts and articles into a fairly random structure.

It’s an easy read – great for flights or train journeys. However, I’d didn’t really uncover any fresh insights that helped me think differently about marketing, which I always look for from a business book. In that sense it was a bit of a disappointment.