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Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

In order to be promoted at Procter & Gamble— where I honed my marketing skills— my brand management colleagues and I had to create original ideas for promotion, advertising or some other part of the marketing mix. Innovation was prized for its commercial value and was built into the fabric of the company’s culture.

My secret for coming up with new ideas was to listen carefully to the sales force because I recognized that they were on the front lines, meeting with supermarket chains and thus “one buyer away” from my consumers. Since I didn’t work on Tide or Cascade–the two largest businesses in my division–and instead worked on the smaller Gain and Ivory Snow brands, Sales always had a laundry list (pun intended) of reasons why I couldn’t get more shelf space, displays, etc.  What my businesses needed was a radical, new way to get the attention of my sales management, their buyers and ultimately the consumer.

This insight led to my big idea of introducing  in-store couponing —a way to build excitement among shoppers and get the attention of the store managers.  Results from the test market showed an 80% increase in displays and a very favorable return on investment.  In short order, in-store couponing was added to the marketing mix for nearly all brands across the company.

Good ideas don’t usually happen while sitting at home staring into space. The light bulb moment comes from collaboration, particularly with people whose brains think differently from your own. It is the classic situation where 1 + 1 = 3 because of the connectivity that comes from putting multiple people and perspectives to work on a given project.

If you are home and need a job, try meeting regularly with others in your situation and brainstorm. It gets you out of the house, with people, thinking creatively, and moving toward something positive. And who knows, you might just come up with a better widget or the next “big thing”. Use LinkedIn and MeetUp to get a group going and be sure and work out the rules of use before starting. Who owns the great ideas that come out of a meeting needs to be agreed upon upfront to avoid any legal fallout afterwards. It could be as simple as everyone owns the ideas and may the best man win.

This video is a great watch to get your mind going. It has over 1 million views and provides great inspiration for new-idea creation. Good luck! Don’t forget to write and tell us about your experience with your brainstorming sessions.

Video by TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

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