What Makes An Idea Smart?
Eureka! As a naked Archimedes ran through the streets of Syracuse in Ancient Greece, he was propelled by a moment of illumination. He had solved an intractable problem — he could now measure the volume of irregular solids. He had connected the dots to arrive at a deeper, more meaningful, understanding of the universe.
A smart idea isn’t just witty, or funny, or emotionally touching, or surprising —a smart idea is special. And behind every smart idea is a tale with a messy journey with an epic hero who’s willing to challenge convention and notions of how things are and how they will be.
In a recent essay, Paul Graham — the storied investor and founder of Y Combinator, perhaps the world’s best startup incubator (think Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, Reddit) — talks about how to spot a good startup. He says, “Most really good startup ideas look like bad ideas at first, and many of those look bad specifically because some change in the world just switched them from bad to good.”
As professional communicators, we live at the intersection of culture, technology and commerce. All three are mutating faster than any of us can keep up with. And predicting this change is suitable only for academics who can afford to get it wrong and pass it off as a learning experience.
A smart idea doesn’t need an expert. It isn’t the province of youth or experience. But it does need a special kind of person — a smart person.
A smart idea is born in a mind that consciously believes the world changes overnight, every night. This can be an emotionally taxing state for the sort of people who look for stability and certainty in their lives. In our business, a smart person embraces uncertainty and rides chaos, without getting too excited about the whole thing.
A smart idea does need a starting point. It can be a brief, but more often than not it begins when a brief is deconstructed beyond all recognition and we find the right question. Asking that question gifts us fresh eyes that challenge everything that we took for granted when we turned in for the night.
The smart idea emerges when we find an insight. A non-obvious truth that helps us make sense of this new world that we find ourselves in. It feels like we have found a glowing path in a haze of uncertainty and broken assumptions.
Following that path, we can’t help but get excited and the smart idea starts to take form, as the creative juices start to flow. Art, code and copy come together and the hard, unforgiving lines between the three start to blur. The dots connect themselves, and you join this journey, helping us complete it as you respond.
And we are left slightly different than when we started — our brains rewired, our worldview shifted, our lives richer and more meaningful.
And when night falls, and we go to sleep, we know we will wake to changed world.
This post is a part of our People’s Insights report The Future of Creativity, in which experts from MSLGROUP and some from Publicis Groupe identify 15 drivers for engaging creatively in 2015.