You found a clue!


A blog about creativity, technology, & humor.

Editor’s Note: This post, while enlightening, is first and foremost a plug to have you vote for our SXSW panel. If you would prefer to be a mindless drone who simply takes orders rather than reading or contextualizing, you can follow that link right now. Thanks drone!

Science has taught us there’s an explanation for everything. From what makes a sunset so stunning to how gigantic, horrifying lizards could have ceded planetary dominance over to creatures that get a rash if they wash their sheets without fabric softener.

There is little mystery or magic left in the age of Wikipedia. And yet, when it comes to good ideas—I mean a truly brilliant, inspiring, even life changing ideas—we tend to be dumbstruck. It’s the most common question any creative person will ever get: how do you come up with your ideas?

That very question defined my previous role managing The Onion‘s content production. The creative process, specifically that creative process, became the thing I thought about during sleepless nights. I’d ride the train and daydream answers to questions like:

  • Can you alter the creative process to yield more ideas from less work?
  • How do you ensure that only good ideas survive and bad ideas die?
  • Are certain types of brainstorming assignments easier to knock out than others?
  • What is the best use of meeting time and what is best left to be done alone?

All of those questions fell from the overriding ambitious goal we set for ourselves at The Onion: produce nothing but great ideas, at the highest quantities possible, for an infinite span of time, without ever repeating ourselves or anybody else.

How do you even begin to achieve a goal like that?

This is exactly the type of conversation we are hoping to have at SXSW next year at the panel we’ve proposed, “How Creative People Arrive At Good Ideas.” The Onion is certainly not alone in that seemingly impossible pursuit of producing only good ideas all of the time. Nearly every field is rife with managers, coordinators, ideators, or some other buzzword-ators desperate for ways to get better ideas out of their team.

Our goal is to spend an hour discussing the science behind idea factories, not the magic. There is a very calculated process to places like The Onion’s writer’s room, IDEO’s design studios, or Spotify’s marketing meetings. Those are exactly the places we’ve pulled our panel members from, in hopes of having a conversation that never once uses the phrase “aha moment.”

Specifically, we’ve invited Will Tracy (Editor In Chief of The Onion), Colin Raney (Location Director at IDEO), and Erin Clift (VP of Global Marketing at Spotify) to participate in the conversation with yours truly moderating. I could write 1,000 more words on how each place is indicative of a different idea generating environment, and how uncovering commonalities between them will service everybody in the room, but that would only be delaying the inevitable: voting.

So please, vote for this panel to be included in the 2014 SXSW program and hit me up on Twitter if you ever want to chat for far too long about creative process. Otherwise, hopefully, I’ll see you in Austin.