From blue-sky to actionable ideas: The crucial role of the brief

by | Jul 25, 2023 | Innovation

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Does your organisation run creative ideation sessions?

One of my pet hates is walking into a creative ideation session in an organisation without a clearly defined problem to solve, or objective. In these sessions, everyone is excited, with coloured pens in hand & post-it notes scattered everywhere. The facilitator tells participants that “We want blue-sky thinking!”, and that “There is no bad idea!”. Ever experienced this? By this stage, my face is turning red and I’m about to explode, (or as an introvert, implode)…

Well, blue-sky thinking eventually needs to hit the ground and create impact and yes, there are bad ideas. Whilst we need to recognise that all ideas begin their lives as bad ideas, or I prefer to call them drafts, the really bad ones are those that arise from these sloppy workshops that lack preparation and waste everyone’s time. Ideation sessions are happening every day like this. They are examples of innovation theatre – they make your organisation appear to be innovating, but it’s not. The result is a bunch of ideas that don’t solve a problem, or meet an objective, and because no scope was set, they are often so out there, that they are not implementable. The ideas that emerge are like clouds that drift across that same blue sky and after the workshop, are never seen again…. woosh.. woosh.. gone..

In the advertising industry, creativity flourishes within the boundaries of a brief that clearly describes the things like the objective, audience, timeline, and budget. Creativity flourishes with constraints. A brief needs to be well understood by people who will be tasked with doing the creative work of coming up with ideas. A clear brief also enables you to prioritise ideas based on criteria defined within that brief.

Here’s a few simple steps to improve your next ideation session:

  • Step 1: Create a clear brief. Include in this what you are trying to achieve, your scope and what success looks like.
  • Step 2: Ensure everyone is aligned on the brief. Everyone who will be involved in finding creative solutions needs to be 100% clear on the brief. This involves ensuring everyone has an opportunity to ask questions. 
  • Step 3: Have fun, and get creative. Now you can get those creative juices going and go blue-sky to generate all those draft ideas. Just be prepared that you will need to work on them to ensure that, at least a few of them, will float down from the heavens to hit the ground.

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