What makes an idea great?

Science tells us about an interesting psychological bias. We tend to overestimate how succesful our own ideas will be. On the other side, many creative people suffer from great self-doubt. Most of us probably go back and forth between under- and overrating our own creations.

So how can we tell which of our ideas are truly top notch? Some make lists of criteria. It has to be relevant, impactful and innovative. Or emotional, surprising and engaging. Or …

Others say they recognize a good idea because these always feel uncomfortable at first. Well, so do many terrible ideas. Researchers have tried using questionnaires, focus groups and now brain scans to figure out which ideas will work. With varied results, to say the least.

Personally, I think this is why genius musicians from Bowie and Miles Davis to Childish Gambino and Thundercat work(ed) with producers. And why most great advertising creatives still work in teams. It’s much easier to recognize a great idea if you didn’t have it yourself.

As a creative director, it’s my favorite part of the job. Convincing someone their idea is much better then they realized. Then, of course, begins the hard work of polishing it into a diamond. But that’s a different blog post.