One big idea vs Many small ideas

An interesting post from Whistle through your comb I thought I would share with you ::

idea-graph.gifThe “Big Idea Model” is dead from a business perspective. The big idea points in a direction and says, “Charge!” Resources are poured into it. It’s a boastful model built on force. And more often than not, it’s a Pickett’s Charge. (The movie industry is suffering from this as well)

On the other hand, having many small ideas is a cheaper, faster, lower risk and a more diverse way to create. After all, little ideas can out grow their fish bowl. You only need a few successes to really make it big. The Recording industry has operated this way for years.

As CMO’s tenures dip below 2 years, it seems they would be much better off working with agency operating on the Many Small Ideas model. After all, failure is more common than success and there are only so many big ideas you can execute in two years.

That said, maybe ad agencies should mimic companies like Y Combinator, Curious Office Partners, Obvious, Tech Stars and Hit Forge who incubate and execute lots of little ideas (typically Web 2.0 startups). Each idea out with a small bit of financing and once it proves itself, it receives more. This means that all the time and money wasted worrying about and researching whether a new idea will succeed is unnecessary; you simply try it out.

This offers up an interesting paradox: the agencies who thrive in the future will be those who do not just outsucceed other agencies but outfail them as well. They will grow not in spite of failure but because of it.


A curious design-focused human with an insatiable appetite for learning driven by the endless desire to make things.

3 thoughts on “One big idea vs Many small ideas

  1. Having worked in an advertising agency I think people talk about creating “one big brand idea” in that we have to create one campaign idea instead of just creating an advertising execution. Whilst creatives should certainly be thinking of a core campaign idea not just an execution, there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be trying many smaller ideas – they’re cheaper, easier to implement & test, quicker to get approved and give us just as much learning in a smaller fish bowl. The age old model seems to suggest that there’s some kind of Maslow’s hierachy when it comes to information, insights & creativity. The reality is that creativity is necessary and often present at all levels of the process and ideas are something which should pepper the thinking along the way – not something that only comes out of a creative brief at the end of the process. If you don’t have ideas while you’re researching, hunting for insights, looking at the market – then how do you know the information is springy? How do you know it matters?

  2. Can I hug you now or later? This also applies to idea generators like yours truly who does not come attached to a behemoth company to drive big campaigns.

    My theory is I can generate ideas; the client and I drop them into their overall strategy a bit at a time, and none of them have taken months, fortunes or piles of angst to achieve some positive results.

    But then again – I’ve always been a kinda disruptive influence 🙂

  3. I’ve been thinking along similar lines. Trying to articulate how kill the big ‘brand idea’ we all jump through. Almost wonder if its better to have several brand ideas…that of course somehow work with each other. Still, trying to figure out how to let go the grip of the ONE big idea.

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