The first step in any intrapreneur’s journey is coming up with an idea.
Innovative ideas can seemingly come from nowhere or can be coaxed during specific brainstorming sessions. The power of an idea makes innovation possible, but where do good ideas come from?
Saul Colt is a man that comes up with ideas for a living. His organization, Saul Colt – The Idea Integration Company, works with companies and brands of all different sizes to come up with creative ways to reach their customers. From new business initiatives to marketing campaigns and stunts, Saul has empowered companies to come up with and execute big ideas, making him a very sought-after mind. We recently had the chance to pick Saul’s brain to find out how he makes mental lightning happen time and time again.
The power behind ideas begins with the understanding that there’s no such thing as a small idea. “Every idea is a big idea,” Saul told us. “I think there are big and small executions, but if you really think about it, dreaming up something that no one has ever seen before is a really cool thing. It’s what you do with that idea afterward [that matters].”
But before you can run with an innovative idea, it’s important to understand where ideas come from. For Saul, ideas come from everywhere. “Everything I do comes from my brain, but where those ideas start could be from one of millions of different inspirations. I’m inspired by everything around me, from people and conversations to pop culture and media, everything I do comes from me dreaming something up based on a spark of inspiration.”
When Saul gets called to assist an organization come up with their next big idea, he spends significant time looking for that right inspiration to make sure that his ideas align well with the company’s goal. “When I’m given a brief, I tend to read it a minimum of two to three times just to absorb and look for patterns or inconsistencies and things that make me scratch my head. After reading it through a few times, I always have at least one or two questions […] because I always want to know more.” Digging deeper into the issue or problem you are trying to solve is what Saul believes is the key to sparking that great idea.
One way that Saul digs deeper into problems is by putting himself into the mindset of the end user or customer. “One of the biggest mistakes people make is internalizing everything.” He jokes, “If every idea I had was just for me, everything would be weirdly sexual, awkward, and almost offensive.” But Saul continued by telling us, “I’m not dreaming up stuff for me. I’m not even dreaming up stuff for the company I’m working with. I’m dreaming up stuff for their target customer and audience.” And, to do this he tries to picture himself as that person buying or experiencing that product or service. “I’ll do some reading of some blogs they would read, or watch a couple TV shows they would watch, even if it’s out of my usual scope, it helps me develop and understand that person’s thought process AND THEN I start to dream up the big idea.”
While Saul has his own process for coming up with big ideas, we asked him if there’s anything that leaders inside companies can do to inspire creative and innovative thinking from their employees. “I don’t know if you can truly inspire ideas, but you can definitely set the tone. Whenever I start a project with new people, I always make everyone watch a movie together. A lot of the time the movie can be a creative documentary or along those lines, […] but sometimes it’s PeeWee’s Big Adventure. I want people to watch something together as a group that sets the tone for what it is we’re going to do. If it’s a very playful project, I want it to be a very playful film, but I also want it to be something really inspiring or unusual and something they may not watch on their own. I do this because I want it to start a conversation. Before we even start talking about the project, I want them to feel inspired and creative and be bubbling with ideas. So, I make people watch a movie and then discuss the movie.”
Some people may consider this a little ridiculous, but Saul truly believes that setting the tone for every project is an incredibly important step to thinking creatively. Every project is going to be different, just like every aspect of a business can be looked at in a different way, but he has seen first hand that really amazing things can happen if “you just pause and breath before you start your work.” He admits that it may sound cliche but “it’s like when you go to a fancy restaurant and they bring you the lemon sorbet between the appetizer and the main course to cleanse your pallet. I want people to go into a project with a cleansed mind, like a cleansed palate, forgetting all the other things going on work-wise leading up to now. I want people to start fresh.”
By setting teams up for success, Saul believes that anyone and everyone can have the next big idea for their company. “Even when I get called in to help come up with ideas, it’s not about me. The best ideas should always win, no matter who comes up with them.”
Saul Colt – The Idea Integration Company
Principal and Creative Director
One of the Best Word of Mouth Marketers and Customer Experience Designers in North America.