Being a maverick isn’t about comedy socks

It’s hard work making it look this easy. Well, that’s what I tell my clients, anyway. But the truth is that having ideas for money is a joy. People often ask me how they can do this too. My answer is always the same: “If you need to ask, then no you can’t”.

I have ideas for a huge variety of clients across all kinds of industries. From start-ups to blue-chips and from charities to art galleries. Magazines, shoemakers, quangos moisturiser-mixers and PR companies have all felt the benefit of some time with me. They all know it is something of a punt, but none have ever been disappointed.

Time with me and my ideas can be in person – brainstorming for PR campaigns or new markets – or it can involve me (alone) sitting in the bath or walking in the park with my headphones on. Socially-distanced working before it was a thing.

It helps to be a bit outside of everything. Being something of an introvert can actually help here. Having something of a left-field imagination helps even more. Those who know culture beyond the mainstream excel when it comes to out-thinking those who follow more traditional career and cultural paths.

How does having ideas for other people work? Well, mostly it begins with a combination of walking a mile in another’s shoes and being a fresh set of eyes. It involves empathy and, at times, a brutal overview of a business, campaign or need. It could be being handed a blank sheet of paper and being asked to re-imagine an established brand, or it may involve working within the bounds of an existing image, campaign or product. One day you’re thinking outside the box, the next you’re advising clients to close the lid.

I’ve not met anyone who is great at idea creation and brainstorming that is not also good at humour. It is part of the process. For some clients, I start with the most outrageous or outlandish ideas and reign them in until they start being achievable and/or stop being illegal. With others, I start at a dull baseline and see how far we can push things together.

All of that needs funny at some point. What it doesn’t need is wacky, joke-bloke, dress-down Friday funny. Your business, charity or start-up is not going to get far on cracker jokes and sitcom standards. You need someone not afraid to throw a spanner in the works and a smokebomb into the boardroom.

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