The Power of a Great Idea

The Power of a Great Idea


When he was pre-planning Nintendo Wii video game Disney Epic Mickey, gaming legend Warren Spector (creator of classic games System Shock and Deus Ex) took a slightly different approach to how the game would pan out.

Instead of having his best designers, scripters, coders and creatives brainstorming ideas, Spector got a bunch of interns together from the Disney Interactive Studios intern group. He then let them have free range over coming up with ideas on the game’s look, feel and plot.

The result is one of the most unique and successful games from last year’s holiday period, with a great twist in gameplay mechanics. It’s also proof in Warren Spector’s belief in the power of a great idea: you don’t have to have years of experience to come up with greatness.

Now think how your business can transfer a video game’s approach to your overall one.

Age is a Fallacy

As Spector’s use of interns show, age doesn’t always equate to experience. Sure, the older you are, the more experience you have of things. But this generation has grown up with the web as a standard; who do you think would be the best people to have brainstorming a web project, for example?

Think of the people you have versus the people you need – they’re not always the same thing.

Ears Are Better Than Eyes

The first step to any sales success is listening to what the market needs. Sure, as marketers, our job is to provide what the market wants (or at least make the market want our products). But sometimes we really do just need to listen to what the market needs. Our eyes can see trends and results of action; but our ears can get the real story behind the trend (or even before it happens).

Listen more – don’t just rely on sight. Listen to your employees; your customers; your sales team; your competitors. Don’t just accept what you see; interpret what you hear.

Greatness Never Ends

Just because you have one big hit that pays the bills for the next ten years, don’t accept that that’s necessarily all you need to do. Royalties are great but times change – your great idea from last year might be next year’s black sheep.

Continue to push yourself and ask what worked; why it worked; what didn’t; how it can be improved. Acknowledge the great ideas that others have had, and ask how you can adapt to your own needs. Ideas only stop when you’re dead.

How about you – how are you powering your great idea?

image: Abdulrahman’photographer

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  1. says

    Danny, so true. (As always) When you’re brainstorming for the killer idea, include a mix of age, experience and perspectives. It’s also important to facilitate your brainstorms in a way that gets input from introverts as well as extroverts, creates an environment where all ideas are safe, where participants are encouraged not only to listen ACTIVELY, but understand that their roles aren’t to “sell” their ideas to the group or the “problem owner,” but to build on the ideas of their fellow ‘stormers.

    • says

      Hey there Ken,

      We once hired a kindergarten class and got a client to have their meeting there. We basically put them in a room surrounded by kids drawings and said, “Think like a child. Impossible isn’t in your vocabulary.”

      Worked really well, funnily enough… 😉

      • says

        Hi Danny,
        Funny and not surprising. Thinking like children is one of the best things facilitators can encourage our ‘stormers to do. Why? Because children’s brains are in “creative” mode nearly 100% of the time. Their powers of editing/critiquing/holding back haven’t yet been developed. But most grown-ups spend more time in “edit.” I guess that makes the world a safer place, but does nothing for brainstorms, because once one’s in “edit’ it’s extremely difficult to get back into “ideate.” The solution? Separate the two. Spend the majority of your time in “ideation,” and after you’ve selected the most fascinating ideas, go into “edit/improve” to make them work.

  2. says

    Hi Danny!

    I love posts like this … they give me great hope and let me know we’re on the right track! Your focus on listening more than seeing is key. Since we are so new and have zero advertising budget, we reach out to potential customers via the phone part of our day (the rest social media, etc.). We constantly “hear” their needs, complaints, misunderstandings, etc. of small businesses and what an education! This has made such a huge impact on what we do and the direction we’re headed. We started out one way; however by calling on small business “our niche” found it’s way to us. Customers constantly comment about how we really listen to them and don’t talk over or undermine them. To me it’s a given; yet, I’ve heard horror stories otherwise.

    Paying keen attention to the competitors in our field and striving to separate ourselves in some unique way is working for us. Ah, we look to the day more calls are coming in then going out, but it will only make us work that much harder to please them and be a step above the other options available – always aspiring for improvement!

    Guess that’s how we’re “powering” our idea … I never thought of it that way, but I sure do like thinking of it this way! Thank you Danny!! :)

    Much kindness,


    • says

      Hi there Elena,

      And this is why I love small business owners – nothing is beyond you to try, and damned if you’re not going to make that last pitch before signing out for the day.

      Here’s to hunger. :)

  3. says

    hi, danny meet you again, every day of your articles the better, I like it, I strongly agree with “But Sometimes We really do just need to listen to what the market needs. Our eyes can see trends and results of action; but our ears can get the real story behind the trend (or even before it Happens). “because the hearing we can analyze the state of the market for business opportunities as well as for developing ideas, the roof if our eyes can be deceived by appearances

    • says

      The way I always look at it is this, Joy.

      Eyes are on the front of your face, so you can only look ahead, really. Ears, though, are on the side, and because of that they give you a much wider area to cover.

      Seems a shame not to use them as such… 😉

  4. says

    hello danny ,absolutely a agree with Warren Spector’s belief in the power of a great idea: you don’t have to have years of experience to come up with greatness.because to get knowledge and also experience can taking by reading books, browsing in internet , it’s a technology ….what do you think ?

  5. says

    Danny, well said. The key is for more experienced marketers, who get to make the decisions, to be brave enough to seek out ideas in places seldom looked in the past (e.g. outside the marketing department braintrust).

  6. says

    Awesome and inspiring post as always. While it is nice coming up with great ideas, we should always listen and hear to know whether it is actually needed. We also need to work towards our goals and never think we have “arrived”. Thanks, Danny.

    • says

      Thanks, Ana.

      Leon makes a great point below about Jobs and Ford and their approach to the market. Listening isn’t the same as hearing, and the smart folks are the ones that separate the two. 😉

  7. says

    Danny, your post speaks to what I recommend to people every day. Take a kaizen approach to everything in life: the relentless pursuit of finding a better way. Good is good, but it isn’t good enough. Constantly innnovating, looking at things from different perspectives, engaging people with varying perspectives and definitely…most definitely…listening, watching and talking to one’s market/customers is what it’s all about.

    The questions that bubble out of me every day to the people I meet: What do you need? What do you want? There’s an old saw that goes: I don’t need bbq’s and refrigerators…I want warm hot dogs and cold beer. Separate needs from wants, walk in the shoes of the customer and constantly “kaizen”. That’s how I power my ideas. Cheers! Kaarina

    • says

      Amen to the needs and wants separation, Kaarina.

      So many forget to do this one simple thing and then wonder why all their grand plans are amounting to nothing. Um… check your approach… 😉

  8. says

    The thing I love about young professionals, especially when it comes to web development and anything digital, is they haven’t been set in their ways yet. With people who are more experienced, when you say, “Let’s try to do XYZ,” they tell you all the reasons it won’t work. When you say the same thing to a young professional, they figure out how to make it work. #ilovethat

  9. says

    I like this post a lot. I know right now with the transition I have been making with blogging and business I have looked at a lot of different things that have worked in the past and what didn’t work to see how those things can be improved on. Right now it seems that you have a lot of different ways of taking your ideas and making them profitable that so many people don’t focus just on that one idea.

    • says

      You know what I like about blogging, Justice? The ability it gives us to crowdsource and test things out, and then put that into practice in our business.

      Sure as heck saves time and money and, like you say, allows us to turn ideas into profit.


  10. says

    G’Day Danny,
    Really enjoyed this post; particularly the “ears are better than eyes’ notion .But the real conundrum is what makes an idea great.

    If, for instance, Warren Spector’s interns had merely rehashed a whole lot of old stuff, his original idea wouldn’t have seemed so great. People have been pushing 3D since the 1920s. And Popular Mechanics first proposed a combination car/plane at about the same time. Great Ideas? Maybe their time will come……

    On the other hand, Henry Ford clearly had a great idea. So did Steve Jobs. It’s interesting that both these gentlemen eschewed the idea of asking clients what they needed.

    Keep making us think Danny,


    • says

      Hey there Leon,

      Love the Ford and Hobs analogy mate – perfect examples of how listening to yourself is better than listening to others.

      Wouldn’t recommend that approach to everyone, mind you! 😉

  11. says

    Hi Danny I really enjoyed your post.
    I don’t know if I’m the right person to talk about “Experience” but the thing is the “Digital reality” is exactly what you describe with Warren Spector’s company.

    The next generation of entrepreneurs are digital native, used to share and test surrounded by communities and many times helping solve problems.
    As a result their difficulties will be niched in the interpretation of what they hear for “the experienced”. And as we all know it’s not so easy to hear in such busy environments.
    What is true is that we enter into this paradigm shift and clients know, see, listen to tech evolutions. In order to attract them or keep them we have to propose many solutions (even those we haven’t already tested) and elevate their level of consciousness: that’s the new interactive marketing, that’s the new type of conversation we have to share and engage in a long term.
    Great inspiring post Danny :)

    • says

      You know, Yael, it makes me wonder what my one-year old son will have access to, when he enters the workplace (either for someone or for himself).

      It’s scary to think of all the tools people have access to now to make us think and do better – what it’ll be like in 20 years… well, the mind just boggles. :)

  12. says


    Great points made in this post Danny. Blending the old and new and making sure we are focused on being creative/innovative not resting on past accomplishments and using the best people for the job irrespective of status, age etc. As always experience may be a hindrance. Really important to keep open minded and use continuous evaluation of perspectives to make sure knowledge/insight and focus remains fresh and relevant.

    Thanks Danny

    • says

      An old boss once said to me, “You don’t have to have the smartest people around you – just the best people.”

      At first I thought he was mad, as surely having nothing but smart people would make a success, right? Turns out he was bang on – you can be smart but still wrong for the job in hand.

      Being the best for whatever you need to do, though? Now that’s smart. 😉

  13. says


    This is a great insight indeed. “Great ideas” don’t stay on top forever; that’s true. It is because market needs and demands are ever changing. So we need to be consistently tuning ourselves to keep up with the demands.

    OF course a great idea can occur and it can work out, but we should neither be boasting about it nor enjoy the comfort of the success.

    We need to say to ourselves that “success is always temporary and we need to work for it every moment”.

    • says

      Hi there Jane,

      So true. If they stayed on top forever, well, we’d never have a “Best Before…” date message on products, would we? 😉

  14. says

    It’s important for us to remember that sometimes our experience gets in our way. Sometimes it’s our experience that clouds our mind from the most simplistic level that we need to think from.

    I recently started a new job and people have been asking me questions like mad. Not because I know a thing about my new role and responsibilities, but because I come in with a fresh perspective.

    That Epic Mickey is great. My kids got it for Xams last year and still play it all the time.

    Hope you’ve been well Danny! Take care sir.

    • says

      “…sometimes our experience gets in our way.”

      LOVE it, Jk, and so true – if we really knew everything, would there be any need for any other people in our lives at all? 😉

      Completely agree, too, Epic Mickey is awesome, mate – Disney needs to get that added to their parks stat!

      Keep smiling, mate, always a pleasure. :)

  15. says

    Business is like sports. One day you are Djokovic, at the top of the world at Wimbledon. A few weeks later, you are still Djokovic but have lost the Davis Cup to the Swedes

    As business owners sometimes we will win and sometimes we will lose. We are never going to have a 100% strike rate. But we can have a 100% “we gave our best” rate.

    • says

      Great timing, Bhaskar, what with the Nadal result at Wimbledon. :)

      Like you say, as long as we walk away from failure knowing we gave it our best, we can always know that there’s always the next time.

  16. Adam says

    Great post Danny I am fortunate right now to be working with an innovative company that never settles for the status quo. We always look for the next “big thing” for our customers. We don’t come up with the idea and tell them they will like it. instead we ask them what their challenges are and brainstorm ideas to solve the situation at hand and it works beautifully.

    Never assume just because you are the leader you will always be: Example: Nokia and Android Phones, MySpace and Facebook, etc.

    In today’s rapidly changing world, staying put IS falling behind!

    • says

      I love the fact that you ask what their challenges are, Adam – after all, if your client doesn’t know what’s troubling them, how can you be expected to solve it? 😉

      • Adam says

        “if your client doesn’t know what’s troubling them, how can you be expected to solve it?”

        I suppose you could throw some random ideas up on the wall, grab a couple of beers and start throwing darts.

        It’s hard enough “telling” people solutions to their problems. I’m definitely not going to get in the habit of telling them what their problems are too. They should know their world much better than I do, Ill sit back and listen.

  17. says

    Ideas only stop when you’re dead. Hmm.

    I was in love, recently, with a cool chick from P.A. It went well, she was great, and we had fun. But I’m not sure that I was as in love with her as I am that sentence. *looks all dreamy*

    I think there are a lot of messages in this post, but the strongest that stood out to me, is that you should become adept at DOING THINGS with what you see and hear. Am I close?

    • says

      I always look at what we see as our own personal camera, Ryan. And as the saying goes, the camera never lies – it’s the after-effects that create the false images.

      See what’s really there and then do what needs to be done. Seems to work, mate. 😉

  18. says

    Hi, Danny.

    You are quite right. Ears are definitely better than eyes. Listening to my customers and their needs have been what drove me to find better ways to serve them. Because of what they tell me, I am able to come up with new ideas.

    My age of the members of my team varies, too and not all of them are graduates of something. Somehow, if we find the time to listen to people, really listen to them, despite their age or college degree, we will find fresh perspectives that we could learn from. And, that is what I get from my team.

    Good read, mate!

    • says

      Hey there mate,

      I thought you’d been a bit absent, mate – great to hear you’re busy over there, that’s never a bad thing. Guess this listening thing actually works, eh? 😉