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Home in on that really big idea

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Leading a business requires creating insights: the kind of underlying concepts that launch a thousand ideas.

Take the New York Miracle, an advertising insight ginned up by Phil Dusenberry and his ad team at BBDO to bring people back to New York City after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Their insight featured New York-based icons doing quintessentially New York things: Woody Allen skating at Rockefeller Center, Henry Kissinger playing baseball in Yankee Stadium, Yogi Berra conducting the New York Philharmonic and Barbara Walters auditioning on Broadway.

Once you’ve got an insight, work it and protect it.

Here’s what Dusenberry has to say about making that happen:
  • Be brutal in refining the work. Dusenberry’s first mentor once flung a set of storyboards he didn’t like out a 12th-story window. But remember: You can’t be merely a creative rejecter. You have to be the creative director.

  • Don’t let your people hear you complain. That just gives them permission to complain.

  • Judge work objectively. If you force talented people to do things the way you’d do them, you’ve effectively hired clones.

  • Lead your people, don’t compete with them. If you need to win every time, even against your own team, you’ve got a problem. At least once a day, cede a point or let others have a piece of the pie.

  • Shelter insights from mediocrity. Don’t let people mulch your original concept into something familiar, reject it as odd or strip it down through groupthink. Your best defense: a strong, trusting relationship with the client.

  • Don’t hoard the credit. When it comes to creativity, the best position is one in which no one knows where the big concept came from and no one cares.
— Adapted from “Bringing Good Insights to Life,” Phil Dusenberry, Fast Company.

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