I think they called the late, great Robin Williams’ cancelled TV show about ad execs “The Crazy Ones” because many great creatives – even PR types – are known for that one wacky idea.
At our agency we subscribe to a school of thought that encourages – with limitations – the full expression and exploration of crazy ideas, provided there’s a “sane” foundation that means the idea might turn into a workable concept. We’ve all experienced the “that’s so crazy it just might work” phenomenon, like our creative job searches for clients, or our Valentine’s Day “break up with your bank” campaign for a credit union that actually had some journalists humming break-up tunes.
Herewith we provide a method for taking those sometimes out-there concepts and smartly shepherding them into reality.
Nurture an effective idea system. This means an environment where ideas are actively encouraged—from all quarters. Make submission simple, and let staff know that evaluation of their suggestions will be quick, egalitarian and effective. Implementation of even one employee suggestion, no matter how “off the wall,” helps boost morale and can positively impact the health of the workplace, literally and figuratively.
Foster fun, not fear. Gather brainstorm participants (don’t necessarily call this session a brainstorm, though, because that adds “idea anxiety.”) Take advantage of a weekly meeting or other gathering and get each participant to come up with the most impractical ideas that could help solve a company need.
Use parallel thinking to mold and improve ideas. Try this exercise to help mold a crazy idea into a workable, even breakthrough one. Then probe deeper to see how the “ridiculous” concept might actually work. Participants can do this on paper and not share with the group – just yet. Next, partner up some people to share and refine the idea more. Each team works on the idea until they feel they’ve got something to share with with the group, who can then build a way to implement.
Build in safeguards. While freewheeling thought and spirited discussion can lead to game-changing ideas, there have to be parameters to reign in the crazy. In our office we are always quick to use our past experience for what works and what doesn’t as a barometer for final idea selection for a client or company need. Sound rationales are bound to trump crazy in the real world!
If you lead with the crazy….You are taking a big risk whether presenting to your internal team or to a client or customer. Know the audience, be prepared to answer any tough questions and always have a few more concepts in your pocket.