Thursday, July 26, 2007

Transformational Ideas

In the ideas business there’s one thing you've got to have: ideas! Not everyday ideas like “let’s go shopping”, but big transformational ideas. With the spectacular exception of Sir Issac Newton and the apple, these kind of ideas don’t just fall out of the sky and into your lap.

Over the years I have worked with many great ideas people, including our creative director Bob Isherwood (who is a one man ideas machine), and I find they share the ability to put things together in surprising ways. It doesn’t sound like much, but the talent comes in not backing off from where the strangest connections may take you.

I am always on the hunt for these exhilarating combinations and I’ve been tracking a terrific example. Imagine. You’re sitting in Dubai, too hot to move and watching sport on television. Dubai/sport, your mind drifts back and forth between the two thoughts. What’s your big idea? Well Majid Al Futtaim came up with Ski Dubai. I kid you not.

The resort is more than 22,500 square meters with more than 6000 tons of snow on its artificial slopes. It even snows. This idea transformed what people thought was possible - anything! in the desert city. Ski Dubai greeted its one millionth visitor earlier this year.

I was mulling over other odd combinations when inspired by New Zealand’s gallant participation in the America’s Cup. The team is sponsored by Air Emirates (another quirky marriage of minds pointing to the Middle East), and on a recent visit to Wellington, New Zealand, I came up with this. Wellington has a reputation for being the windiest city in the world – yes, windier than Chicago – and it rains a lot too. A broken umbrella could be the symbol of this unique place. To this thought add the fact that New Zealand is a world leader in sailboat technology – the technology of harnessing wind. From there it is not too hard to propose that New Zealand produce an umbrella that could survive anything nature cares to throw at it. I see broken umbrellas in trash cans in most places in the world . This is an idea that needs to happen, preferably before next winter. The unbreakable umbrella. Let’s call it The Wellington.