The Idea Gym

"…innovation is like exercise. You've got to make it a habit, you've got to schedule time for it, or it slips through the cracks in your over-booked life."
Fast Company magazine blog

Annoying isn't it? We all know that the statement is absolutely accurate "but what exactly do you suggest I do?"

Well, here are some thoughts:

1. Ask yourself why you or your company behave in a particular way.

For example - why do we employ men to sell our cars? It might be simply that car sales are generally perceived to be a masculine occupation. There is still a perception that cars are something to do with mechanics and engineering or some heroic motor racing fantasy. But being a petrol head is no reliable indicator of being able to serve the needs of customers; especially when so many of those customers are women. Traditional or habitual behaviour can get in the way.
Women, according to, are the Mega Niche, the under-served market of all markets. Women, who comprise just over 50% of the US population, make over 80% of the consumer purchasing decisions. They determine 80 percent of consumption and purchase 60 percent of all cars..."

2. Stop censoring yourself
We can sometimes be our own worst enemy. Fear is the key. Governments censor information when they fear that ideas might cause change or turn a tide against them. Businesses routinely suppress ideas for fear that it might risk existing business or, perhaps, that today's revenues are guaranteed to persist (and grow). We censor ourselves with negative thoughts like "It's not done that way," or "I might break it and never get it back together again." "That's stupid," "It'll never work," or even "We tried that and it didn't work then". I'm not advocating reckless disregard for existing business methods. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is probably ill-advised. Acknowledging that change equals growth (of one kind or another) is the first step. The second is recognising that change will happen to you whether you want it to or not. "If you don't like change then you'll like irrelevance even less".
Innovation relies first and foremost on attitude. Your approach to idea generation and, development and testing will benefit from optimism rather than fear or conservatism.

3. Look outside your usual arena for ideas.
I've often been called in by clients who have the opportunity to surprise the competition staring them in the face. But they don't see it. Often they reach the point where they believe simply doing what they have always done will produce a breakthrough if they simply intensify their activity. Often that means spending more.
Being alert to ideas from other industries can often stimulate new thinking in a category. The creation of Family Health Diary (now New Zealand's biggest advertising brand on Television) would never have occurred had I not been exposed to the ideas associated with network marketing. My then-wife and I were briefly involved and, while that business model turned out to be wrong for us then, the principle that creating something once then profiting from it over time - a template model for advertising instead of being driven by customised narratives proved to be highly successful.

As a creative director in advertising I would encourage writers and art directors to spend less time poring over advertising award books and industry magazines and more time in art galleries, at the movies and reading publications about other things. I highly recommend going to Borders, grabbing a stack of books and magazines at random (if you don't have a Borders your local library is as good). It is astonishing how unfocused stimulus can unlock freah ideas for specific problems.


  1. Stop censoring yourself.

    That's the curse of adult life really isn't it?

    And those of us who are foolhardy enough / brave enough to put themselves up for ridicule are too few and far between.

    In fact didn't Apple build a whole campaign around this many years ago? The one with Lennon, Einstein, Ghandi etc.


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