Concept creation is the foundation of any creative or entrepreneurial project, as well as an educational, organizational or social agenda or strategy. Complaining about the pompous language of political correctness, comedian George Carlin once said, “I knew the problem was getting serious when I began to hear ordinary people refer to ideas as concepts.” Besides being funny, he was right. An idea is not a concept and, in particular, a concept is not just an idea.
Creating a Concept
A pile of family recipes is not a cookbook. Your notes are not a presentation. Employee feedback reveals and defines brilliant company policies – if you sift through it. That logo your cousin drew may work for your startup, but a logo by itself isn’t a brand-strategy.
It takes work. Put corners on it, weigh your options, segment, consider alternatives, study your field, monitor the competition, ask for help, do cold-calls, get feedback and have the bravery to start over. Concept creation makes an idea a reality, by clearly defining a vision, mission, strategy, brand, network, potential allies and more.
A Concept Formulates Qualitative Aspects
It’s the qualitative counterpart to quantitative business plans and cost projections. That sounds simple and logical, right? Except it’s not happening. Over the last 20 years, I found myself sitting in countless meetings, committees, seminars, brainstorming sessions and even large conferences that completely lacked a concept. Amassing evidence doesn’t put together a court case. Bringing together a random group of people doesn’t make the sparks fly. Drafting rules and regulations doesn’t make your employees understand safety principles. A bunch of old text from your website and some pictures don’t make an effective brochure.
Any startup or business understands the value of hiring experts to help them come up with a proper business plan and budget because they involve money and investors require it. They usually don’t think of hiring an expert to help them define who they are, what they want and how they expect to achieve it. And yet – answers to those questions define your values and your values will define whether customers will be willing to buy your product or service or not, whether the market will take you seriously or not.
A Proper Concept Saves Money and Grief
Another layer of misconception is that the various creative professionals you hire will come up with a concept on your behalf. If you haven’t properly thought through a creative brief for them, they’ll be working blindfolded and the product (website, video, presentation, event) will not only look but produce accordingly.
If they’re good (and care beyond their billing rate), they’ll force you to come up with a concept through collaborative ping pong, but that’s expensive and frustrating for both sides. It will cost you twice the money and take twice as long, but it will work. If they don’t care, they’ll simply sigh, grab what you gave them and do something… anything to complete the task and move on.
The lack of concepts on part of clients causes serious burnout syndrome with many creative professionals. The black humor that runs through the industry is that if someone has the word ‘creative’ under their name on a business card, you can be sure there is no spark of creativity left in them – unless they are a newbie.
Why? They are all-too-often asked to produce something out of the blue, just to have it be rejected and spiral into more trials and errors. We call it ‘cooking from water’ – with no initial ingredients – and then being told that, actually, the client didn’t envision a tomato soup, but a beef stew. Although understandable, it’s extremely frustrating and costly on all levels, wasting time, money, effort, talents, good relationships, creativity, as well as often entirely missing the point.
Concept Creation as a Service
Over the years, I helped launch many different projects both from a consulting and an active role. I help individuals and teams crystallize their ideas by asking the right questions, as well as directly participating. I’m fine with lending my expertise to brainstorming sessions but also participate where my specific skills are needed. My background in languages and writing come handy in formulating concepts while design skills help me envision the future. So I recently began to call-it-what-it-is and offer Concept Creation as a specific creative consulting service. Only once the concept is clear, it makes sense to dive into Content Strategy and Development, which is another story.