In 1939 James Webb Young, an advertising executive created the “Technique for Producing Ideas.” This list may be older than anyone reading this blog, the concepts are not only still relevant they work. Welcome to today’s history lesson.
Every week in our churches you are trying to come up with ideas. Every creative team has felt the tension of sitting in a meeting and being asked to produce innovative ideas on demand.
Here are the five steps, a bonus, and a few thoughts on how you might be able to use these in your environments:
Gathering Raw Material – Keep your antenna up. Always be on the hunt for things that move you creatively. Look for exciting images, headlines, sounds, movie clips, visuals, articles, smells, and experiences. “Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around and hope that inspiration strikes,” says Young. And as you know creativity rarely strikes. So be proactive and always be collecting.
When your ministries or communicators come to you with a scripture verse or theme if you have not created a stockpile of ideation tools you won’t have anything to add. The awkward silence that fills the room is defining. Have a tool to catalog ideas so that you are prepared to have a conversation. I like Evernote.
Digesting the Material – Revisit what you collect. Calendar some time for you to go back and look at what you gathered. Don’t be afraid to edit what you have gathered. Some things you thought might work, won’t and other things you were worried about will become amazing. Young says, “This part of the process is harder to describe in concrete terms because it goes on entirely inside your head.” Revisiting the art will help you find new ways to use old stuff. The things you saw change over time as your experience and context grow. You are always developing a more refined filter from which you review the data.
Unconscious Processing – Walk away. Young says: “When you reach this third stage in the production of an idea, drop the problem completely and turn to whatever stimulates your imagination and emotions. Listen to music, go to the theater or movies, read poetry or a detective story.” Stepping away creates space and context for ideas to grow.
The A-ha! Moment – Finding A-Ha moments require space and silence. Getting rid of distractions gives the space in your mind for ideas to come alive. Prayer is also a considerable part of this equation. When you get alone and pray, this times is a space your brain can focus on what they have been processing, not what is in front of you right now.
Idea Meets Reality – According to Young, “You will find that a good idea has, as it were, self-expanding qualities. It stimulates those who see it to add to it. Thus possibilities in it which you have overlooked will come to light.”
Often this happens in a community.
Be brave and flexible (bonus) – We must have the courage to share our ideas. It is scary because far to often our identity is trapped in our creations. God cares way more about who you are becoming than he does about what you are creating. Be courageous with the sharing of ideas, and flexible with how people respond. You have done the work, you are probably right, but they may not be ready yet. As you earn trust in the organization, you will get more leash for your ideas to get more lift.
The goal of your creative is to move the message forward, not to be cool. Cool can be a by-product of what you do but should never be the focus. Connection and the forward progress of momentum is the primary win! You must always be helping make the message digestible and sticky.
How many of these steps have you incorporated into your life?
How do you make those steps work for you and your creative process?
Remember! We need you and your ideas. They are vital to the future growth of everything we do. You can be the catalyst for change and the engine for excellence inside of our churches and organizations. We need you; we respect you, we value you and your ideas. They matter. You matter. Let’s make history!