digital experiences that people love
Jon Waring
11th Nov 2014

Where do good ideas come from?

In digital, there’s a lot of discussion about ‘shipping’ and how people have lots of ideas, but very few can make them happen.

Making stuff happen is a rare quality indeed. But aren’t great ideas equally scarce and valuable too? I suspect they are, and that they require an equal amount of focus and tenacity.

There’s little mystery surrounding project management and building stuff, it’s a process that requires a lot of hard work and commitment. The creative process on the other hand, may suffer from being thought of as mysterious. I wonder how many imagine temperamental creatives, all playing table football or having flashes of brilliance while smoking a bong?

In my experience, there are many techniques that help facilitate the generation of ideas and what most have in common is hard work and tenacity.

A technique for producing ideas by James Webb Young

James Webb Young, in his book ‘A technique for producing ideas‘ advocates a particularly ordered 5 step approach:

  • Gathering the raw material. Specific and general.
  • Explore the material you’ve gathered until you’re fed up.
  • Drop it. Go out and do whatever it takes to ‘not’ think about it.
  • Wait for the idea to occur to you. Usually in the shower for me.
  • Test your idea in the real world. Look for critical opinion, shape and develop it.


Damien Newman shows us the process in this wonderful timeline of the creative process.

The Squiggle of the Design Process by Damien Newman, Central Office of Design.

Both processes place significant emphasis on research and understanding. The point I’d like to make is that great ideas come from doing the ‘hard yards’. Contrary to the view that creatives easily come up with ideas in a flash of brilliance. Hard work precedes insight which generates good ideas.

The Harder I Practice, the Luckier I Get

Arnold Palmer