The Market of Ideas

How people define the value of your idea.

The value of an idea

There are two main aspects that define the value of ideas: their value, and their paternity distance.
First of all, like in economics, the value of an idea is related to the offer and the demand. In a simplified way we can say that when there is more offer than demand the price of a product will be lower than when there is more demand than offer. If we translate this concept to the notion of ideas in the context of a client-designer/creative relation we can say that the individual value of an idea is lower when there are a lot of them.
The second aspect of the value of ideas comes from the notion of paternity. The more close you are to the birth of the idea, the more value the idea has for you. The most silly example for this is to see how precious parents find the creation of their children. An example from the creative business is this moment when a client finds the idea of his relative, usually is daughter or son, better than what a team of professional creatives brought to him.

The formula of the idea value

To sum it up we can define the value of an idea with this formula, where 1 is the biggest value an idea can have, and 0 the lowest.

Idea value = 1/number of ideas + 1/distance of paternity

The problem with ideas

Let’s now imagine a situation. A creative, be it an architect, a designer or an illustrator, has a new client. This new client asks for a new creation, and therefore for new ideas. The creative proposes a brillant idea, but the client doesn’t see how brillant the idea is. At that time, the client expresses the idea that he has in his head, then the persuasion fight begins.
Usually the idea that is presented by the creative is not just one simple idea, but comes out from years of experience and from a long creative and research process. On the side of the client, the idea generation process is more genuine and with less experience. So, let’s assume for the purpose of this article that the idea of the creative is just the “better” one.
What happens at this stage of the client-creative relation is that the creative professional has now to persuade his client of the value of the idea.
As we saw in the last section, the value of ideas is related to their number and their paternity distance. In our example the problem comes from two aspects. First, the client will put more value in his idea because he his its “father”. Second, the client gives his idea a lot of value because there are only two ideas in the game: his and the one from the creative.

Why you should devaluate ideas first

To change the situation of the previous example we should take our time machine and come back to the first meeting with the client. Our goal is that the clients doesn’t fall in love with ideas to quickly and then sticks to them. As a creative we want our clients to be open minded for change and innovation. To make this possible we will first ask the client not to only express the idea he has on his head, but we will ask him to come to us with at least ten different ideas. This will make his first idea less precious and therefor he will be more open to discuss its value. As in every relationship, reciprocity is a key element to success. That’s why you should do the same to your ideas. You should find more ideas to avoid falling in love and being able to discuss their value without being to emotional.
In the equation defining the value of an idea we have two elements: the total number of ideas, and the paternity distance with the idea.

How to give more value to your ideas

In the previous section we saw that by devaluating the value of ideas we can create an open minded atmosphere. Now let’s give back some value to the ideas by changing the paternity distance. Our equation says that the closer a client is to the idea, the more value the idea has. In other words, a client will find more value in an idea if he his the “father” of the idea or if he feels a great bound with the genitor of the idea.
This formula expresses on of the most obvious but most underestimated dynamic. You can enhance the value of the ideas you produce if you have a great relationship with your client.
The second learning here is that you should involve your client in the creative process. There are numerous ways of doing that:

  • Base ideas on quotes from the client
  • Have brainstorming session with your client
  • Use the Human Centered Design approach