Friday, January 26, 2007

Where Ideas Come From

Interesting piece in the New York Times about Ronald Burt's theory of Where Ideas Come From (summarised in Apophenia, via Russell via Rodcorp)

Got a good idea? Now think for a moment where you got it. A sudden spark of inspiration? A memory? A dream? Most likely, says Ronald S. Burt, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, it came from someone else who hadn't realized how to use it. "The usual image of creativity is that it's some sort of genetic gift, some heroic act," Mr. Burt said. "But creativity is an import-export game. It's not a creation game."

This is complete rubbish, isn't it?

He's clearly never had an idea in his life.

But to prove him wrong, I decided to look at where my own ideas come from.

I looked back as far as the beginning of 2003, and worked out what the source was for all the ideas I'd had. (N.B. it only includes ideas that actually ended up running, and it doesn't include the many ideas that came from my partner or from a creative director, as I can't say with certainty where they got them from).

Here's the result.

(My first-ever pie chart. I've probably done it completely wrong, but I don't care, it was fun.)

Amazingly enough, it seems that most of my ideas actually come from - shock horror - the Brief. By that I mean I made some kind of leap (probably a feeble one) directly from the proposition, or one of the support points or something.

Source No.2 is Autobiography, by which I mean that something in the brief or product triggered a memory of some personal experience, that I was somehow able to hammer into the shape of an ad.

At No.3 is (shamefully) 'Another Ad', i.e. I was "inspired" by a pre-existing ad to solve the brief.

At No.4 is ''Someone Else' having the idea, and suggesting it to me, which in both cases was actually my wife (thanks Suz.)

And in 5th place, there was one solitary idea inspired by a film.

I've no idea whether these proportions tally with other people's experience, but I'd be interested to hear...


Anonymous said...

Sorry, dude but didn't you just prove him er... right?

Scamp said...

How do you mean?

Anonymous said...

Is borrowing really so shameful? As long as you do something interesting with what you borrow, that is.

Anonymous said...

impressive pie chart!

faris said...

Talent Borrows, Mark, but Genius Steals ;)

Mark McGuinness said...

Faris - I recognise that! Did you borrow or steal it? (I'm assuming you didn't beg...)