An MIT study released at the end of 2009 lists the key ingredients for breakthrough research: time, risk and the possibility of failure. Together, these components nurture big ideas. Although there will never be one equation for original thinking, these findings can be extrapolated to non-research contexts.
In advertising the fact that failure and risk lead to greatness is especially true. At the height of the financial crisis, many marketers claimed that the potential for creativity was equally at its greatest. The recent campaign for Diesel even uses this contention as the basis for its strategy Be Stupid. By embracing “stupid” ideas, Diesel recognizes that creativity thrives from being open to risk and the possibility of failure. Not only does the campaign cleverly target its youth consumers with a Dazed collaboration competition, events, and music video catalogue, but its big idea embodies the key to finding a big idea.
At a more global level, how can organizations also learn from MIT’s findings? Innovation consultancies structure brainstorming sessions for example which prohibit critique and debate, so that all ideas – even those initially thought stupid – are acknowledged for their potential. In advertising, an industry dependent on creativity, traditional companies have to start incorporating more of these ingredients. Of course being a client service, in certain contexts risk and failure is tough to embrace. But adjusting workplace mentality and processes is more easy to achieve. Although the time factor is more difficult to manipulate, if companies start celebrating risk and failure they’ll be well on their way to unlocking their creative potential.