The Secret to Great Ideas is Having Lots of Them

In Hollywood, I see way too many people obsessing over their “one big idea.”  I’ve actually seen writers and producers spend (or waste) most of their career pitching the one fabulous idea they believe will be the greatest movie ever made.  Commitment to your ideas is important.  But if you spend much time with truly creative people, you’ll discover that they live in a world of multiple ideas.  They spend the day trying everything, and bouncing things off the wall to see if anything sticks.  If you want really great ideas – then start having more of them.  In my experience, I’ve discovered that out of 100 ideas:

10-25 are totally stupid (sorry – you have to have those)

50 sounded good, but won’t really work

5-10 were ideas I REALLY liked for awhile, but then got old

3-10 are quite good, but not ready for prime time

2-3 I’d actually be proud to pitch

Don’t be afraid to toss ideas out and start over.  Watch the creative teams at advertising agencies, production companies, or TV networks, and you’ll see that great ideas come out of having many ideas.  Stop thinking “moment of brilliance” and start thinking “research & development.”

Now, go think up some creative ideas….(lots of them).

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  1. Great list there and very true. As an artist I have about that many ideas floating around in my head, the list gets added to every day. Not everything works when you actually try it.

  2. Just got out of a creative meeting with several minsters grouping together to do a series at our college ministry on campus. 6 months of ideas thrown out there for 3 week series.

  3. I learned a long time ago (thought I still blow it) to make sure the other “creatives’ understand the process. I value the bottom 90, because they force me to the top 10. (per your list)

  4. Read Bill Backer’s book The Care and Feeding of Ideas (9780812963588): Bill Backer: Books

    Phil has got it right above. Backer’s book is the best book I have ever read about what happens to ideas in an organization. It is the story of how he took two lines on a napkin, and turned it into the greatest ad campaign of all time, Coke’s I’d Like to Build the World a Home. You can get it for as little $.18 + shipping at Amazon…

  5. Recently I heard that Michael Jackson had a shortlist of 200 songs from which to select his “Thriller” albumn. Apparently “Billy Jean” almost didn’t make the cut. That’s a great position to be in.

  6. Well said…remember no one strikes out more than power hitters.

    I’d say my score card would look like this:

    —- 15 are totally stupid 

     — 40 sounded good, but won’t really work

     — 20 are ideas for someone else (not who I am with that day!)

     — 15 were ideas I REALLY liked but everyone else thought I was crazy

    — 5 were so good that I could not get my arms around it enough to communicate it well

     — 3 are quite good, but not ready for prime time

     — 2  I pitch and score

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