Why ideas don’t make you creative

kevin macmillan worksFollowing on from Tom Donald’s piece suggesting planners should learn how to fight or lift weights to become better planners, Kevin Macmillan, creative partner at The Works, suggests how to make creatives better at what they do.

I read with interest the thoughts of Tom Donald on hiring former sales people and ex-business owners as planners, or failing that make sure your planners learn a martial art.

Most of what he said could have been directly applied to creative because it all centers around one specific point; development is not a substitute for application.

And just like a good plan, a creative idea is worth nothing without application.

As a starting point, I’ve always been amazed at how few people actually apply their ideas to paper.

Once you have applied the thinking to paper it actually exists. It becomes real. So few creative ideas are applied to paper these days. Why? It’s because the idea talks back to you from the piece of paper, forcing you to answer difficult questions; now you have drawn me, do I look as good as you thought I would? Will people like me? Do you even still like me? And the idea is often capable of saying, ‘I reckon you got a lot more work to do to justify why you sold me in the first place!’

This is why people don’t apply their ideas to paper, it’s confronting. The dreamy development stage turns into something tangible. Like talking about your ability to make a cocktail instead of making one and stepping back to see someone’s reaction when they drink it.

As Tom puts it, your cock is on the block.

Great ideas come from application, it pays to write/draw every idea on paper, even the ones you don’t necessarily think are good ideas. Because every now and again a supposedly ordinary idea looks back at you and says, I’m better than you thought, I actually have potential. You could probably get some use out of me with a bit more effort.

Of course once your idea is committed to paper and you’ve decided to listen to what it tells you, it always means one thing; you are going to have to put more hard work in. It’s that application thing.

Here’s another critical reason for applying ideas to paper; it reduces the pointless discussions around the idea.

In reality there are a lot more shit ideas than shit hot ones. Somehow, people find it hard to close a shit one down early. The time and money wasted is amazing, people sitting around in break-out rooms, on beanbags and other bouncy things which are there to give the appearance of ‘wow look at me, I am totally an innovator’.

A beanbag won’t make you creative. A jar of bloody lollies to give you a sugar rush won’t make you creative. Not even an idea makes you creative.

What makes you creative is application.


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