Creative Thinking—Part 1: Lightning Strikes & Big Ideas

“Never hope more than you work.”
—Author Rita Mae Brown

Creative_Thinking_Lightening_StrikesCreativity, in my experience, comes from two places:
Lightning strikes and relentless, focused effort.

And while lightning strikes are fun and have led me to some great ideas, when you’re in the business of producing creative every day, you don’t have time to sit around waiting for the right atmospheric conditions.

It’s hard work.

In my world, it takes more than just coming up with a fun or crazy or surprising idea. The idea must also help the client achieve their business objectives. These five steps have helped me… and they might help you, too.

  1. Study the assignment. Get deep into the business, the objectives and—perhaps most importantly—the target audience.
  2. Summarize: Find the truth inside these findings and express it through a Creative Brief… which should result in agreement from all stakeholders on where we’re headed.
  3. Generate: Brainstorm as many ideas as possible without regard to their immediate utility. (You never know what might stimulate the next big idea.)
  4. Refine: Look at the results of brainstorming with a critical eye. Which raw diamonds deserve to be cut and polished? Then blow out 2-3 key concepts to see if they “have the legs” to help us get across the right message to our particular audience in such a way that it will enable us to meet our objectives.
  5. Select: Partner with the client to determine which creative option best captures their strategic vision for the meeting. Then continue to hone and polish throughout execution.

Painter Chuck Close may have said it best: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.”

Don’t wait for lightning to strike. Purposeful creative comes from hard work… and usually, the best way to create is simply to get down to it.

In follow-up posts, I’ll go into greater detail on each step in my process.


Rick Cornish creates communications that inform, influence and inspire… helping organizations increase sales, promote unity and persuade their people to embrace change. Working in video, corporate meetings, event marketing and more; Rick delivers purposeful creative that drives business results and builds stronger brands.

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