Five idea killers and how you beat them

April 17 2012 - Mark Phillips

Tom Fishburne, The Marketoonist, has just released a video presentation that looks at some of the problems you might face when trying to turn a great idea into a finished product.

At just over half an hour, the video is a little long, but half of this is a recording of a workshop. The first 30 minutes features the best stuff.

Tom is a great presenter and he includes loads of examples to illustrate his ideas so it's well worth watching. But knowing how busy you are, you'll find the key take aways summarised below.

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The main focus of the presentation is the impact of criticism. He sees it as an important part of the creative process, but as it is so much easier to be negative than creative, the review process can drive ideas to mediocrity.

And as mediocre ideas often fail, the approval process is constantly 'toughened up' by organisations that want to avoid wasting money.

The result is a process that favours 'safe' ideas rather than great ones.

Which can be very expensive as safe ideas need a significant advertising budget. Something which Robert Stephens describes as the 'tax you pay for unremarkable thinking."

Which leaves us with the five idea killers and how they can be tackled.

Leaving the creativity behind at the brain storm

The best ideas riff off each other. Put the ideas on the wall. Keep on sharing them and allow everyone in the organisation to continue to participate in the process of creation.

Test, test, test and launch big

Get ideas out as quickly as possible and test them in the marketplace. Focus groups are artificial and can only take you so far. Your donors won't ever be able to react if the idea is never put in front of them.

Try to appeal to everyone

You can't afford this. Instead focus on being deeply relevant to a small audience rather than blandly appealing to the many.

Follow the rules of the category

We don't think like customers or donors and tend to package ideas in ways that work for us or our organisation. By focusing on what customers or donors need we answer their problems rather than our own and create more attractive products as a result.

Leave marketing to marketers (or fundraising to fundraisers)

Legal, communications or policy people water down your work because they focus on the key elements in their job description – not yours.

Share your problems and ask them to help develop solutions with you. I've seen this in action and it really does help reduce the conflict between departments.

And if after that, you still struggle, you could always come along to SOFII's celebration of 22 of the best ideas in fundraising, I wish I'd thought of that, and steal one.

The event is in London on Thursday the 31st of May at 1pm. Hopefully I'll see you there. I'll be the one standing at the back furiously scribbling down ideas in a notebook.