Let’s say you were going to pitch an idea to prospective investors about your revolutionary new consumer packaged good, a breath mint that smells like rotten trash. Now, you wouldn’t just launch right into the concept. First you have to demonstrate the need for it. The context you might use to frame the idea would go something like this. Mints are refreshing and useful, but what if you'd rather have bad breath? What if you prefer to keep people away from your mouth? Introducing the anti mint. Maltoids are the breath candy you put it in your mouth to create an offensive, odorous smell that repels unwanted people from entering into your personal space. Next time you and your girls go out drinking, now you can keep from having to talk to any unwanted drunkards trying to hit on your. Maltoids, it’s a breath of wretch air. See the difference? That’s what you call the power of context. You have to give your idea a handle by which people can grab it. Labels make things easier to classify and comprehend what’s going on.
IDEA THEATER — Prime and frame people’s brains so they’re more receptive and willing to accept your reality
One useful exercise for growing your skills in the theater of presenting ideas is writing creative briefs. For those of you lucky enough have avoided working for marketing agencies before, the creative brief is a concise description of an issue to be addressed or a condition to be improved upon. Traditionally, it helps the copywriting, design and media buying team see the gap between the client’s current state and desired outcome, so they can all execute in alignment. But what’s brilliant about the creative brief is, it starts by forcing you to generate a problem statement. Typically in the form of a question. And once you nail down that first step, now you have a dedicated place to examine the many aspects of your idea. If you’re struggling to communicate your ideas to important people, set aside some time to write a create brief. Figure out which problem you’re trying to solve, for whom you’re trying to solve it, and how their lives will be better as a result. Even if you never show the brief to a soul, it will equip you with the necessary tools to build context around your content. Walden comes to mind, one of the greatest pieces of transcendental ever written. Thoreau writes a beautiful passage about people who came to visit him at his home, and it has a stark parallel to the creative process. You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port. The bullet of your thought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into its last and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it may plow out again through the side of his head.
Being a creator means being a communicator. To have the greatest impact, we have to put as much effort to helping people digest our ideas as we are in the ideas themselves. The founder of the innovation studio where I used to work called this the theater of presenting your idea. It’s where you prime and frame people’s brains so they’re more receptive and willing to accept your reality. But too many of us jump right into the content before laying the groundwork with context. Myself included. Sometimes I will start passionately sharing a story, strategy or idea with my boss, only to be interrupted with, wait, back up a minute, what are we talking about again? It makes me feel foolish and careless every time. Whoops, forgot to set context again. It’s a good reminder that part of our job as creators to narrativize our ideas and put them into a broader context, helping our audience make sense of things through a sort of prism.
Remember, you can’t make people listen to you, you can only try to raise their receptivity so your ideas have the highest probability of getting making a positive impact. Don’t walk past the theater of presenting your idea. Become a master of context, and your context will meet people in the best possible way. What context did you forget to set?
Create context around your content
Narrativize your thinking into a relatable prism
Communicate ideas as well as you create them
Give your ideas the best chance of making a positive impact.