What Makes An Idea Great?


So here it is; my first Squared Online post.

First things first. Hi, I’m Adam, I love inspiring TED talks, good coffee and great ideas. I’ll properly introduce myself in my next post. You know, what I do, what I hope to achieve and so on. But after reading all those great responses to the “What is Digital Marketing?” post on the virtual campus, I thought I’d offer my own definition and compare it to one that I’ll write at the end of the course. Hopefully, this will be a testament to both the Squared Online philosophy and, perhaps, my own personal achievement.

The definition I offered in the post reads;

“Digital Marketing is the ability to communicate a value proposition to those who display a need for it via their digital footprint”Adam Robinson

I like to see it as short and sweet. Although many might see it as too short and bitterly misguided. However, since this is reflective and we’ve barely started, I’ll explain how I arrived at this definition and speculate on the digital revolution as I see it.

Great ideas or Ideas for Greatness

As I’ve mentioned, I love great ideas. But what makes an idea great? And what makes it an idea that just you think is great?

A great idea is one that adds value to a community of people and, in turn, that community can freely and meaningfully share, engage and connect to develop and increase the value they derive from it. After all, community is one of our most basic societal functions, so it makes a lot of sense that the ideas that have the most profound effect on us are ones that benefit a group of connected individuals. The core principles of a strong community are belonging and trust, so again it makes sense that great ideas form communities around them. Everyone that then contributes to the success of them feel that they both belong to it and trust those who equally contribute and belong.

But over the centuries, as the population has grown exponentially and the reality of globalization is very much upon us, this ability to create strong communities has become diluted. This can be also be said for our ability to produce great ideas. Now, don’t think that I believe that there have been no great ideas produced over the past 100 years. Because there has, a myriad of them, improving our lives indefinitely.

But until recently, these ideas have not been great because they have not been able to add value to the communities that requires them. The individuals that make up that community were discommodiously dispersed and did not have the adequate means to share, engage and connect with other members of the community, thus the great idea was just an idea. It had no possible way of forming a community around it and as hard as people tried, the idea was just that, an idea.

Simon’s Life-Changing Words

In my opinion, this has had a profound effect on the ways ideas are formed and what makes an idea that in the end, only you think is great. In the absence of the means to consistently produce great ideas, we have, on the most part, produced ideas that are influenced by the desire to make a profit and ultimately, by a community of people who equally stand to make a profit. Again, don’t mistake me for some liberal hippy waiting to assassinate the Man the first chance I get. Of course, people do things to make money, that money improves their lives, it is almost redundant to explain any further. But let me direct you to a life-changing (for me anyways) TED talk delivered by Simon Sinek, “Why Great Leaders Inspire Action” . He says “profit should be a result of our actions, not a goal”.

This is what I’m getting at. Your ideas should not at their heart have profit as they primary reason for existence but unfortunately, so many of them do. And it is not the fault of their creators, it’s simply the lack of the ability to form the sufficient community around them as a result of our globalised population. This inability has altered the core influence of idea generation. Consequently, in the attempts to form the communities required to make an idea great, traditional marketing has become a tool only for the rich and powerful.

The Rise and Fall of Traditional

The traditional marketing landscape has become dense, predictable and increasingly ineffective. With 7 billion people on this planet and rising, ideas and the communicating of them for the most part is now both difficult and expensive. Although many succeed, it is often not the cost of the activity itself, rather, the value lost because of an inability to truly measure how they are received. More importantly, how the community that is created around them is managed and cared for and how the value generated within it is measured in order to tend to the community’s evolving needs.

A TED talk given by Dan Cobley explains the fundamental downfall of traditional marketing. His talk ‘What Physics Taught Me About Marketing’ discusses Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’. Now, don’t mistake me for a man of science but I’ll try and explain the theory. The principle states that it is impossible to measure a particle as the act of measurement by its very definition changes the state of that particle. Before I lose you completely, let me explain why this relates to the now ineffectiveness of traditional marketing

Traditionally, to collect data you hold focus groups, conduct surveys etc… The problem; people act differently under these conditions. “The act of observing the consumer, changes the consumer’s behaviour” – Dan Cobley. Hence, the act of measuring your message’s (the particle) effectiveness, you’ll receive an inaccurate perception of your message. Put simply, what people say they do and what they actually do can often produce two completely opposing results.

So what all this means is that traditionally, we will never be able to truly foster a community, understand it needs or provide it the environment it requires to allow the great idea that catalysed its existence to infinitely add value. However, in our attempts to do so, traditional marketing has grown and grown until now, it’s reached an unviable level for the majority.

Traditional has spread further and further to try and create these communities but inevitably, the cost has increased, in line with the ever growing population, exponentially. And the ways we measured and understood those communities aren’t, as shown, as effective as they needed to be. Traditional has become only suited to big brands, big budgets and big business.

Traditional is failing because of a simple understanding. Why shout about an idea, when you can pass your idea, via digital means, to people who’ll carry it for you driven by the need for that idea in their lives?

So, What’s All This Got About Digital Marketing?!?!

Digital Marketing, and indeed the Digital Revolution, is the solution. It’s allowing us to once again have great ideas, to enable communities to freely and meaningfully share, engage and connect to develop and increase the value they derive from them, anytime, anywhere. Digital Marketing, I feel, is the very public face of the Digital Revolution.

Digital Marketing has once again levelled the playing field, anyone with a great product or service can form a community, a community of people who are connected by their passion for an idea. It is one of our most basic societal functions and one that is again accessible to all. The creation of digital spaces affords us the chance to engage and share with others who want to see that idea grow. Not because there is someone behind it making a profit but because we have the chance to contribute to the success of the idea. The profit gained, by those fortunate to come up with the idea, should be the “result”. First and foremost, great ideas and the value we derive from them then should benefit a community who actively display the need for it via their digital footprint and are provided with the digital means to share and connect with others.

The Digital Revolution brings to the party it’s the secret weapon, the holy grail of weapons. Big Data. As a result of unfathomable technological advancements, we are now able to gather data on an unprecedented scale. Above all else, big data tells us what needs creating. Helping us streamline the process by which we introduce value into the world.

Digital is simply the answer to the problem of globalization. Giving us back our ability to come up with great ideas and affording us the ability to allow them to grow and develop in a meaningful way, influenced by the ever increasing amount of cognitive data.

So, maybe my definition, for now, could read;

“Digital is the ability to produce great ideas that enable communities to form around and receive an ever evolving value dictated, in part, by the needs represented by our digital footprint”Adam Robinson

You can see how this post was inspired by amazing TED talks, a lot of coffee and hopefully… a great idea.

Your comments are welcome and in fact, eagerly anticipated. That is, if you made it this far.


3 responses to “What Makes An Idea Great?

  1. I like this, particularly the use of Heisenbergs Principle! Very well applied and will spawn a blog post by me :). As a Behavioural Geographer whose interests are in how people behave within digital spaces I find the number of definitions that relate to ecosystems and environments brilliant. It shows that you are all thinking about digital as a different type of space. Do you think the same kinds of ideas can be applied to print or other campaigns? What makes an online community different from a real world one, if anything?

    • Thanks Sarah! You’ll have to link your blog over.

      In answer to your second question, I think online communities differ in several ways. Communities are strengthened by the knowledge that all its members are active and contributing, online communities have the digital space which provides constant and accessible proof (through posts, comments, shares etc) of this.

      Online communities have more power because of the speed at which the connectedness of the internal relationships can develop it’s members’ ideas and have the knowledge that others see this change.

      I prefer to think as online communities as ‘agile communities’ and it is this agility that spawns creativity and change.

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