A Few Words to End the Week

 

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Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

The current issue of Fortune includes a terrific book excerpt that describes the art and science that leads an individual to breakthrough ideas. From personal experience, I’ve always valued the structured brainstorm or ideation session in which group-think builds and shapes ideas. But I don’t think I’ve ever left one of those sessions knowing that we’ve hit on the creative answer that we were seeking. Inevitably that comes later, and it comes through the process described in this new book, “The Net and the Butterfly: The Art and Practice of Breakthrough Thinking.”

In brief, the book describes how you can get in your “genius mode,” and – not surprisingly to me – “one way is to sleep on it.” Throughout my career, I’ve found that some “alone time” – before or after a group brainstorm – is where the ideas really start to come together. Another piece of advice from the book when you’re facing a creative challenge? Take a walk. These activities or periods of time give your brain the space to focus, and to wander, letting your mind make connections among the knowledge you’ve built up over the years.

A few other bits that I’ve learned over the years:

  • Time isn’t just a luxury. Our industry is fast-paced, and carving out time to think shouldn’t be something that we think of as a luxury. Taking a walk isn’t necessarily idle time. It’s time to step away from whatever is on your desk – or whatever is distracting you on your phone – and letting your mind do its best work.
  • Read, read, read. I’ve counseled junior staff to follow their clients’ industries, as well as their own industries, whether in print, on air, or online. Great ideas happen when we connect what seem like disparate thoughts or pieces or information. So fill your mind with all sorts of information – whatever takes your fancy. At some point, all that knowledge will be used to make connections that lead to a collection of ideas, or even to that single breakthrough idea.
  • Don’t lose the idea! As the ideas percolate in your head – especially in that down time before you fall asleep – it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll remember them in the morning. I’ve thought the same thing, only to wake up in the morning and ask myself, “What was that killer idea I had last night?!” Now I keep a pad and pen by my bedside. I’ve also called and left myself a voicemail when I’ve been out on a jog, or sent myself an email to make sure I have some notes on my thinking.

Now, how was I going to end this piece? I know I had a great idea … Oh yeah – when your day is done, sleep on some of these ideas.

 

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