Big ideas do not need big ideamakers. And the fundamental difference between ideation and creation.
Bigger does not mean better. Some figure that a large company is quite capable of generating ideas simply because with so many people the odds are on their side. Surely a 2000-person company, they reason, can generate more good ideas than a 20-person one could. Wrong! Two reasons: Firstly, communication, which is key, is considerably more difficult, segregated and certainly more indirect in the larger organization. Secondly, most employees of large companies are cogs in the machine (whether they want to be or not) and they know it. They punch the clock, do their job, don’t rock the boat or offer anything beyond their job description.
Barry Base, a columnist for Canada’s Strategy magazine used a restaurant metaphor to describe finding an ad agency: “Let’s hit the biggest restaurant in town? Why not; it must be good, it’s BIG! Well, it may employ hundreds of cooks and waiters and bartenders, but only one of them will sauté your chicken or refill your breadbasket or mix your martini. Your problem is knowing which one is doing your stuff.”
The reason this is a problem is because it is wasteful for a client, or in Base’s example a diner, to have to pay for staff and accessories that are not used for their particular project or meal.
The scale of an idea is not in proportion with the scale of the workforce needed to generate it. That is, an idea is the result of quality of minds, not quantity of minds. A small, diverse group can think of a big idea just as – or probably better – than a big like-minded group could. This means that a client must find the organization with the best environment and the best people for ideation. However, most clients do not bother to do this. They do not seek out a team of creative generalists; people arranged in an ideative environment. If only they realized that the dynamic of the environment is the real secret to ideation success.
Creation, on the other hand, is proportionately scaleable – meaning it often requires more people and equipment for bigger jobs. As the project scope increases so too will the number of people needed to service it. In this case, a client needs to select the best creative supplier who is also competent at the full scope of the project. This is where clients get sucked in to thinking bigger is better because there will always be capacity if the project grows.