Do you know where good ideas come from? Don’t feel bad, neither do I.
Surprising, perhaps, considering my advertising agency is responsible for coming up with great ideas for our clients every single day.
I know how to present ideas; I know how to sell ideas. And like the blind pig finding the occasional truffle, I even create some good ones now and again.
I just don’t know where they come from.
What I do know is that new ideas, good and bad, are very fragile and easy to scare away. And once you frighten them, others don’t show up. Just think of yourself as Elmer Fudd sneaking through the woods. “Shhhh, be vewy vewy qwiet, I’m hunting theowies.”
The other thing I know is that ideas don’t suffer criticism well. That’s not to say that all ideas are good ideas and should be used, only that criticizing ideas at the same time you’re trying to come up with them is the way to make sure you don’t come up with any more.
And finally, I know that shooting down new ideas is the quickest way to prove that they won’t ever work.
Plenty of people will shoot down your ideas, whether they realize it or not. And so you have to be on constant alert, vigilant to the telltale signs of idea killing. I call it “concepticide.”
1. The act of murdering one’s ideas.
2. One who murders one’s ideas.
[Late Latin conceptdium and concepda : Latin concepti-, concepti- + dium, -cda, -cide.]
Like a feral cat hunkering down before it pounces on an unwitting bird, concepticidal maniacs clearly telegraph their intentions, both with body- and spoken-language markers. Here are some of the giveaways:
Rolling eyes. Concepticides often initiate their attacks with signs of frustration at having to explain why your idea will never work. While you’re alert, keep an eye peeled for shrugged shoulders, shaking heads and waved hands. They’re all ways Concepticides let you know that your ideas are no good.
Comments designed to disclaim providence, as in, “I don’t know anything about copywriting, but…” Well, if you don’t know anything about copywriting (or whatever), then why are you qualified to comment on it? I don’t know anything about Bulgarian tort reform either, but I don’t offer my opinion on it.
Damning your idea with faint praise and then moving on to the criticism portion of their diatribe with, “however” or “but.” Example? Saying, “That’s a great idea, but…” The simple truth is that “however” and “but” negate anything that was said before.
Offering “constructive criticism.” Constructive criticism is hardly the former and almost always the latter.
The sound of frying eggs. That’s the little sizzling sound critics make with their mouths when they want to make it subtly obvious that they’re not happy your ideas. That’s where the Spanish saying, “No frieír huevos” (don’t fry eggs) comes from. Frying eggs usually goes hand in hand with rolling eyes (see point one).
Historical references, as in, “We’ve already tried that; it doesn’t work.” The interesting thing about this type of concepticide is that it’s seldom accurate, mostly because your critic doesn’t usually wait until you’re finished presenting your idea before their heads start shaking. Funny thing is, when they do let you finish, what you’ll find that the idea they tried years ago is usually different from what you’re proposing anyway.
The other way to know when Concepticides are getting ready to pounce is when their superiors ask them for opinions and they’re in a position to show off. The equation is elementary: when Concepticides compliment you on your idea they hear themselves saying, “You’re smart.” But when they practice concepticide and shoot down your ideas they’re telling their boss or their client that they’re smart and good to have around. After all, if they just left it up to you, who knows what crazy ideas you’d come up with?
We’ve talked about tools and techniques to protect idea generation before, specifically in my post Beware of The Bazookas!! (You can revisit it HERE). Hopefully those tips, combined with your newfound awareness of concepticide, will help you create more and more ideas and nurture them along to maturity.
When you do, I’d love to hear about the ideas you come up with and to learn how you did it. Just click on the “reply” link below and post your thoughts. And don’t worry, I promise not to criticize!