Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Spark a New Idea

What is the difference between creativity and stealing? Is there really anything new under the sun? Snickers latest offering is Snickers Rockin' Nut Road:

I discussed Annabelle Candy's Rocky Road bar in an earlier blog - it's available only out West. Now I'm not saying that Mars STOLE Annabelle's candy bar - the Snickers are different, but..... They do have almonds instead of cashews, and not as much marshmallow, but....

It really is difficult to come up with a completely new idea. Hey, it's getting harder to even come up with a halfway creative idea! Why?

Well, a lot of great ideas have already been developed. We looked at the fact that the world's longest lasting and, in my humble opinion, best, candy bars were invented more than 70 years ago!

I also think we don't take much time to really think - we want new, fabulous ideas and we want them now! I don't think you can always produce a great idea on demand. But if you need a new idea, I might have some ideas for you.

1.) Take a vacation. Now this doesn't have to be long or expensive. It does need to be somewhere you have never been before. New settings get those creative juices flowing.

2.) Read a book or watch a TV show or see a movie - something outside the genre you usually like, that is critically acclaimed. I tend to watch the same type of shows, read the same authors, but when I branch WAY out, I always enjoy it. My favorite find - Mad Men - I watched it because of the reviews and I love it. Critics don't always get it right, but a lot of times they do. When you need new ideas, think about what makes great work great.

3.) Look at some art. You don't have to spend all day in a museum. Just pop in and check out something. Wander around a sculpture garden. I recently took a look at Raleigh's new Shimmer Wall - amazing. And you have to see it for yourself - see how the wind moves each tiny tile. See the wind made solid. Breathtaking. All art is this way - you need to see it for yourself, in person.

4.) Think of crazy new combinations. Things that you like, but that don't immediately seem to have any relationship. (My leadership and chocolate and motivation and chocolate seminars came from this tactic. But alas, so did bacon and chocolate.)

5.) Learn from the candy makers - make it bigger (King size bars), or smaller (M & M's minis), or cover it in chocolate (chocolate covered Oreos) or peanut butter (Whoppers). Can you tweak something you already have or are already doing? If something is working, just tweak it.

6.) And maybe stealing isn't that bad. If Annabelle's Rocky Road is only available out West, hasn't Mars done us a favor by bringing a version of it to us? Is originality overrated? I'd rather have one good Reese's cup than three Bacon Bars. Just because it's new or different doesn't mean it's better. But if people didn't keep making new things, we might never have gotten the Reese's Cup in the first place!!

7.) Change the format or the shape. A book becomes a TV show becomes a comic book, etc. A Reese's Cup becomes:

a regular candy bar. This is like anti-originality. I don't really get this one. I don't like it as much as the cups - not as much peanut butter - more chocolate. I would have fought this tooth and nail if I'd been in the product meeting. I would have said, "I'm okay with trees and hearts and pumpkins, but not bars! Reese's is not a bar, Reese's is a cup! It's all about the peanut butter!! The peanut butter!!" I would have had to be carried from the meeting, screaming "The peanut butter!!! The peanut butter!!" Sadly, I was not consulted.

They didn't ask me about the Bacon Bar either.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

You are a brilliant person.
I am serious.
I love this blog. Please make it into a book.
Your tips for thinking outside the box are marvelous and so well-said. I have gotten so much out of this blog this morning!