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Generating New Ideas

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Thinking creatively

The ability to be creative, and to think creatively, is an invaluable skill in today’s workplace. It can lead to the development of new products and services, and optimizing business processes. It can lead to marketing campaigns that stand out and really catch the customer’s attention. And, down the line, it can lead to business growth and increased revenues.

Anyone can be creative. However, it’s important to remember that creative thinking doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s a skill that needs to be consciously applied, honed, and practiced. When practiced successfully, it can reveal effective and innovative solutions to various types of problems, from marketing communications to operational roadblocks, and it can generate new ideas.

Creative thinking stages

Stage 1: Prepare

In this stage, you research whatever problem you are faced with. Say, for example, you are tasked with promoting a new product line, but aren’t sure what direction to take. Researching this problem might involve doing a factory tour, and reading as much as you can about the product, audience, market, and competitors.

Further your research by reviewing solutions to similar problems. These could be case studies, advertising tag lines, or campaigns. Try to learn and understand as much as you can about the audience, the product, or the problem you are trying to solve. Observe how and why a product is used or might be used. Ask, who are the people who might use it, what are their motivations for using it, why is it useful to them? Find out as much as you can. Immerse yourself in the details.

Stage 2: Incubate

In this stage, you incubate the findings of your research and let them simmer. Start by taking some time to write down exactly what you are trying to achieve and everything you discovered from your research. Read it, then leave it for a while. When you go back, try writing it another way. Then let go again, and let your mind wander: take a walk, take a bath, read, daydream. In short, do something else.

Stage 3: Illuminate

This is the ‘eureka’ stage when all the elements you’ve been mulling over in the previous stage connect together in your subconscious, and an idea forms in your conscious mind. Write your idea down. Remember the mantra, 'write it straight, then write it great'. Just concentrate on getting the idea down on paper so you don’t forget it. Once you’ve safely written it down, leave it alone.

Stage 4: Verify

At this stage, go back to your idea and sense check it against the original problem and verify that it is the correct approach. Critically assess whether it satisfies all elements of the problem you are solving. Ask, will it solve the problem in such a way to give me the result I need? For example, will this slogan drive awareness of my brand? Is the tone right for the audience or market? Will team operations work more efficiently if this solution is introduced? Ask, what are the various outcomes we could expect if we went ahead with this idea? How might the audience engage with the campaign or how would the team adopt this new process?

If, after asking yourself these types of questions, you find that your idea doesn’t solve the original problem, put it aside. Holding on to it could take you down the wrong path and stop you from finding other, possibly better, ideas. It’s better to work on your next idea instead.

Once you’ve settled on an idea, consider: you’ve written it straight, now it’s time to write it great. So take some time to craft and refine the idea, so it can be effectively understood and internalized by your stakeholders – or whoever has the final say on your idea.

Stage 5: Practice

This is where you practice generating ideas using the five-stage process. The more ideas you generate using this process, the faster you get at coming up with better solutions. This, in turn, can help you discount poor ideas early on and reduce the amount of time that’s wasted in following paths of enquiry that lead to dead ends, or are likely to drive less effective ideas. Practice also helps to focus the way you approach problems. As the process gets more familiar, it can help to naturalize creativity in your thinking.

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Cathal Melinn and Kevin Reid

Cathal Melinn is Digital Marketing Manager at Digital Marketing Institute.

  • 13 years’ experience in search and display
  • Worked at Yahoo! Search in 2005 as a Senior Search Strategist for the UK Financial Services vertical
  • Moved to the world of agency in 2010 as Head of Search and Online Media for five years 
  • Currently working at the Digital Marketing Institute as a Digital Marketing Manager
  • Previous clients include Apple, Vodafone, Expedia, Virgin, Universal Music Group, Amazon, Compare the Market, and HSBC

Kevin Reid is CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com.

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Compare techniques for enhancing creative thinking skills.
  • Analyse strategies to improve problem-solving skills in the workplace

    The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

    You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

    You will not be assessed on this content.


      Creativity Skills
      Cathal Melinn and Kevin Reid
      Skills Expert

      Creative skills aren’t just for artists and designers! Everyone can learn to be more creative. In fact, the ability to think creatively is an invaluable skill in today’s workplace.

      With the help of Cathal Melinn, you will learn how to enhance your creative thinking skills – which should help you generate new ideas, find innovative solutions to problems, and develop new products and services. You will also learn how to remove barriers to creativity and the importance of persevering when your ideas fail.

      When it comes to tackling specific workplace difficulties, you will be introduced to a six-step method you can use to solve problems. And you’ll learn about the skills you need to cultivate in order to be an effective problem-solver.

      You will also turn your creative attention to the art of giving presentations. You will discover how to create and structure an effective presentation, and the preparations you need to make in advance, as well as useful tips on how to deliver an engaging presentation and how to hold a Q&A session at the end.