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Going From Good Ideas to Great

by Joel Machak

How does good thinking become a great execution? Is there a road map? I believe that every idea that rises to be produced follows a similar trajectory. To produce more great ideas, the trick is to put your creative energies where they will do the most good.

Here are the four stages of idea development. These steps hold true for every kind of idea. No matter if you’re reinventing a brand or remodeling a kitchen, the process is the same.

First Stage: Idea Generation

This stage starts once the needs, insights, and resources are defined. The goal is to explore as many ideas as possible. You’ll also want to know the range of ideas that have been tried before. The team responsible for coming up with the ideas collaborates to have idea after idea. Lots of ideas. And everything is rough, not polished – just the minimum to communicate the concept. The best ideas tend to be accessible in simple form. This stage ends with a short list of the very best.

Second Stage: Creative Iteration

Here, the few best ideas are refined and improved. This is where good begins to become great. Copy is written and rewritten. Visual styles are explored and details planned. Messages get sharper. Story arcs are perfected. The user experience comes into focus. Digital ideas may get minimally viable builds. But this stage is not about making beautifully perfected final work. It is about improving the ideas themselves, not building presentations. Some ideas may fall out. Others may become completely new. This stage ends with selection of the ideas to go forth and the single one that will be the recommendation.

Third Stage: Pre-presentation Prep

This is where detail revisions and fine points are integrated into the presentation versions. This is the photo searching, editing, and comping. The goal is to maximize time getting just the best ideas ready for presentation. At this point, you should know exactly what you have – you’re just polishing it and moving forward to make the sale. This stage ends with the final presentation and a green light for production.

Fourth Stage: Final Execution

This is the production, building, testing, launching, the works. This is where you incorporate any final input and sweat the details. You won’t get another chance.

Now map the timeline of your last idea, showing where your team spent their time. If it wasn’t Stage One, closely followed by Stage Two, you’re doing it wrong. Idea Generation is where the real value of the idea is born. Creative Iteration is where it becomes something great. The rest is follow-through – critically important, but the ball has left the tee. If you’re shorting the first two stages, you’re chasing efficiency at the expense of quality. If you want the best ideas, put the bulk of your creative energies where they’ll pay off. Otherwise, you’re spending lavish time perfecting ideas without doing the work of first finding the best.

My advice: manage your creative time to increase the odds of greatness. And think big.

Joel Machak

EVP, Executive Creative Director

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