The keynote speaker at the 2019 ESSA Conference was Tim Reid. A name that unless you were in the room, you are likely to unfamiliar with. However, his work as a comedy writer, business coach, innovator and creative consultant will leave you in no doubt as to the level of his expertise across many landscapes. Having worked agency side for 20 years, Tim moved into writing, innovation and business consultancy, working with clients from global airlines working on how to improve their business class offering, to major retailers on how to improve their stir fry. But in the main, he is a creative ideas man. As a co-creator and writer of Car Share with Peter Kay, his talents for comedy writing saw him form part of the team that wrote what would turn into a hugely popular, and multiple award wining tv programme with arguably the most loved comic of a generation.

His juices really start flowing when it comes to ideas, and how through ideas innovation becomes possible. Often, the craziest offerings during these “thought showers” or “suggest fests” lead to the most practical and adopted strategies moving forwards. In the early 2000’s, a major airline’s marketing director offered a suggestion when trying to attract business class clients away from their main rival. Now there is no way that this particular suggestion would have been voted in, but out of that suggestion came a change that over time helped to achieve the goals they had set out.

So when do people have their best ideas? The answer is when we are in a hypnogogic state. which in short is a state between our full conscious and auto pilot. The majority of people find they have their lightbulb moments during their commute, whilst in the shower, or just before they fall asleep. You check out from reality and your sub conscious can finally speak. The rest of the day’s noise disappears and you relax, the layers are stripped back and at this time you can have your most clear thoughts.

The best ideas are also more likely to appear when working in a collaborative way. And perhaps even more importantly, when people are having fun.

David Ogilvy, the advertising guru who many believe the main character from the TV show “Mad Men” was based on, once said “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible”. Laughter always changes the energy in an ideas session.

Karina Subramaniam Phd - Assistant professor of Psychiatry at UCSF studied 3 groups given different stimuli before completing a COD test with each of them. - One group watched a Horror film, the next a comedy prgramme, the last a quantam maths lecture. The group that had watched the comedy came up with exponentially better ideas. MRI scans were done and scientific proof was attained.

While all of this is true, always exercise caution. “Blue sky thinking is bollocks. Some ideas ARE bad ideas!”

Creativity, is also something that employers are getting more and more keen on. According to studies, employers listed creativity as the 10th most important trait when considering employees in 2015, and in 2019 it’s up to 3rd.

When working on ideas, whether at a senior management level, or as a wider business group, Tim insists that there are a few key principles that, if adhered to, can help any group to generate ideas that can add real value to any business. Some of these are listed below. 

Fill your world with stimulus, challenge yourself by doing different things as often as possible

Spin it - Whatever the challenge faced, there will be assumed rules. Break them

Steal it - steal ideas from others, feel guilty but make it work for you. Tim worked with Speedo on making quicker swimsuits by mirroring shark/dolphin skin. As soon as the new material was launched, records tumbled.

Act it out - Bring the challenge to life. But be brave. The stir fry story from earlier, this came about by the executives pretending to be the ingredients in the wok, acting it out before discussing the pros and cons of the exercise. “I was the chicken and didn’t think I was in long enough”, another thought they were in for too long and were overcooked. Sounds silly, but from these conversations the business moved forwards with a new way of going about their stir fry proposition. Done properly, this way of working really works.

Chance it - Force two objects together by forcing a link with word association. Pepperami & Donkey (Ey-ore, grumpy, mule, kick, punch, fist, 5 fingers, five pepperonis in a pack) They launched it as a multipack.

Push it - Turn an idea up to 11, not just 10. Don’t be scared of what others will think. Those allowing themselves to be the most playful, the most engaged, the most brave in these environments are most likely to come up with the best ideas. The more you put in the more you’ll get out.