The Idea Lifecycle

The best creative ideas have a lifecycle – they are born, nurtured, tested, revised, and then executed in a final display of triumph.

And ideally, each person who touches this creative process gets the benefit of seeing the concept they helped develop go from vision to reality.

So together, how can we make sure this actually happens?

In the public relations world, keeping track of an idea’s lifecycle is not easy. Ideas are often conceived one way, only to morph and transform into something quite different from its first articulation. It’s not unusual for an idea to change hands as it takes shape.  As idea ownership shifts, so too does the spirit of the idea, and such changes are infrequently communicated to the original idea authors.

It does not have to be this way. Regardless of whether or not an idea is implemented, we benefit from knowing where our creative energies land. Following an idea from genesis to execution kindles the spirit of a public relations practitioner. As a creative catalyst at Ketchum, I find the most motivating reason to sweat the creative process to produce break through work is enjoying when an idea in your head takes form in the real world. It’s that magical sense of accomplishment that makes you strive to continually think more bravely.

Linsey Flannery, VP from Ketchum Toronto, shares her own experience of validation: “PR is one of the rare careers where you get to see your ideas go from a sparkle in your eye to a feather in your cap. Last year we executed a program for Hershey Canada called the REESE Minis Perfectly Tiny Awards. The team came up with the idea to award perfectly tiny things from across Canada in honor of the smallest REESE Peanut Butter Cup ever. We all loved the concept from the beginning and worked hard to bring it to life. The program was a huge success. But what was most rewarding was that we built the idea from scratch and we all had a lot invested in its success.”

When an idea does not soar, having a repository of favorite unused ideas lets them live on to extend their lifecycle – if an idea wasn’t deployed as imagined, that doesn’t have to spell its demise. At Ketchum, we literally have an “Ideashop” that houses such idea sparklers–you can reserve an idea the same way you would book a reservation on OpenTable, thus making the idea trackable and giving it a second life.

So next time an idea passes in and out of your hands, make sure that the people who helped germinate the idea stay apprised of its trajectory. Watching an idea grow is so simple and powerful. If you’ve ever watched your own creativity become tangible, you’ll understand.

This post first appeared on the Holmes Creativity Platform.  For more thought leadership from Ketchum on creativity, please visit