Articles

The best ideas come to those who wait

Short Read

Is there a reason why lookalike brands and visual clichés are prevalent in every sector of business? Could it be down to a simple cognitive illusion that puts value on our first ideas?

 

Is there a reason why lookalike brands and visual clichés are prevalent in every sector of business? Could it be down to a simple cognitive illusion that puts value on our first ideas?

 

Research from Cornell University reveals that most people wrongly assume that when challenged with solving a problem, their creativity will inevitably decline over time. This leads them to believe that their initial ideas must be the best, as these will originate from their ‘freshest’ thinking.

 

But the opposite is true.

 

The early idea generation phase is an incredibly satisfying time; there’s a dopamine rush as ideas come fast and loose. Early solutions appear seductive as they have an immediacy and are generated when interest and excitement is high.

 

But according to Brian Lucas, a professor of organisational behaviour, the reverse is more likely true. The more obvious solutions are always going to be within easy reach because they will resemble something that you have previously encountered. There is likely to be a comfortable familiarity with these ideas. They’ll feel creative, but in reality they’re unlikely to be groundbreaking.

 

 

Sound familiar?

Branding in almost every sector of business has conventions that have evolved because they represent the ‘initial answer’ to what a logo, identity, name, website or messaging should look or sound like. That’s because when branding a product, service or organisation, the obvious solution is more than likely to have also been someone else’s first thought. You’ll be drawing from a pool of ideas that already exist.

 

And obvious answers don’t make unique, valuable brands.

 

As Professor Lucas explains, the frustration and hard work of initial ideation gives the impression that you are facing rapidly diminishing returns. For those who are new to this type of ideation process, there’s a sense that your creativity is about to drop off dramatically — he calls this the “creative-cliff illusion”. Settling for a familiar idea is relatively easy, whereas getting to a unique thought takes hard work.

 

The problem is that these ‘first ideas’ become the industry norm, and then, in turn the industry cliché. If you’re a company that needs to show data, it’s natural to resort to a blue world of points connected by glowing lines because — according to your industry — that’s what data looks like. Breaking free of visual and verbal conventions — especially when they seem to be set in stone — can be very difficult.

 

But it can be done. Look at the bottled water sector. After decades of consumer familiarity with the most basic of products, there are still new-comers who are innovating; in packaging, branding, positioning.

 

Nobody wants to sit in a four hour brainstorming session after an apparently good idea has already popped up. But that’s what makes many brands, campaigns and products so absolutely unique. Once you’ve exhausted the logical, then what’s left might just be possible.

 

For many, the prospect of participating in a four hour brainstorming session might appear tedious, but they should — the best ideas come to those who wait.

 

Further reading here