Wednesday, May 09, 2007

An Ode to the Idea

It's the break of dawn. A shaft of sunlight escapes through the sliver in the curtains. It pierces the membrane of your eyelids and stirs you into waking. You crack your eyes open and squint into the sunlight and you:
(a) mutter an expletive and pull the duvet over your head
(b) blink & yawn and roll over to find something (or someone) to delay you from getting out of bed
(c) flutter your eyelashes for a second and then throw back the covers with a YODELIDIHOO and hit the ground running

I'm sure the answer is (d) all of the above for most of us, but what makes the difference? For me, it's whether I've got an idea igniting my veins.

Before we embark on any sort of enterprise, I suppose one has to have a reasonable gem of an idea. For me, an idea always starts with a need. That flash of frustration and the question "Gosh, wouldn't it be great if...." and then the magic starts.

First, my brain starts going tick...tock...tick..tock.tick.tock.ticktockticktockttttt...

I see solutions like images rifling through my head like a flipbook, almost creating a breeze. It slows on some pages, and on others the picture barely registers.

The moment comes when I know the perfect solution is near. It feels like searching for an itch in the dark, your fingernails probing closer, your skin prickling with the anticipation of finding that sweet spot.

Then....I see it. The idea illuminates my skull and raises goosebumps. If it's a really great idea, I can literally feel every root of hair on my head. There's an excitement in my gut, butterflies that verge on nausea. My heart explodes miniature fireworks as my fingers itch for a pen to start scribbling with.

That's always how it happens. Whether it's during a creative review and concepts are being thrown on the table. Or it's a problem I've been mulling about that slowly hatches a solution over the course of a few days. Sometimes it happens when my mind is unclenched, like at yoga. Sometimes I see something, a signboard, an item of clothing, a colour and it starts a chain reaction....

There are always two constants - a beginning and an end.
It always begins with a need, and ends with illumination.

I don't know how other people judge ideas. I suppose there are those that judge it with a rational mind - adding formulae and scribbling on a mental chalkboard until x = y.

I guess I'm more like the other kind. Like the archer who knows the second she releases the bow, the arrow will be true. Or the golfer who knows the instant his club connects with the ball.

Here are some of the ideas I've had in the past, and how they came to light.

Note: I struggled with putting my ideas out for show & tell. They're kinda fragile. And my inner kiasu is screaming not to, in case someone steals the idea. But you know what, I think they deserve their moment in the spotlight. If someone steals them, oh well - I'll have others. But if anyone thinks they're any good, maybe we can do something together and everyone will be happy (most of all, the idea!). So here they are, in no particular order...because ideas don't respond well to favourtism, they have an ego all of their own.

Mashed potato is my favourite food of all time. I can make about a zillion different flavours. When I'm sick, or hungover, it's all I want to eat. So when I was undergoing radiation (and before I temporarily lost my tastebuds) my throat was really dry and lots of foods were off limits. All I wanted was mash! So I had an idea to set up a chain of take-away stores that served different flavoured mashed potato, all homemade from fresh russet burbanks, that are dispensed like ice cream! You get a creamy swirl in a cup and then can pick your "flake" which would little sausage chipolatas. Mmmmmmm nourishing creamy goodness in a cup! YUM YUM! The other name I had for it was I Scream Mash but I never went as far as to develop a logo for it.

The idea of lovebugs was hatched when I was on the coach on the way to Malaysia to attend gradnfather's funeral. It was the first funeral of anyone in my immediate circle and even though I wasn't close to "gong-gong", it affected me alot because all I could see was the day it would be my beloved granny or my parents. I thought that it would be so great to have a moment preserved in history, personal voice messages just for you that last forever captured in beautiful handcrafted toys, or lovebugs. About a year later, I saw some cheap, nasty Made in Chian voice recordable toys being sold at Guardian Pharmacy and felt so sad that they had missed the importance and value of a personal message given in a time of need.

plain was conceived when Chris and I moved house and were setting up my home office. I was at Popular bookshop looking for stationary and frustrated that everyday stationary was so frivolous. Nothing matched my design aesthetic. Do I really want a herd of bug eyed pandas prancing along my ruler? The cool minimalist stationary was just so expensive! So I thought "wouldn't it be great if Apple met Muji and started up a line of clever stationary? So I designed a whole range of wicked products for plain, including my super favourite idea - white staples that would camouflage into paper when you stapled it. And my best friend Kaapi designed the logo. Love it!!!!!!! OH PLEASE will someone do this with me?? I got stuck because I didn't have a clue how to find manufacturers!

I love dogs and have a bull terrier and a french bulldog whom I love to bits. I cook for my dogs, minced chicken with garden vegetables and pasta, shephards pies etc. I often wished there were some great, unique products for pets in Singapore. Like, handmade baskets and stitched woollen blankets, or wonderful handpainted ceramic bowls, beautiful leather collars/leads and homecooked food. So I wanted to build a premium brand for pets. Part of the concept would be to sell puppies from responsible breeders (NO PUPPY FARMS, she screams!!!!!!!) and have a huge grassy compound where they would run loose and play with each other and have their own kennels to sleep at night (NO GLASS BOXES, she screams!!!!!!).

Shelter was hatched from an experience in Bali. We were at a spa and they had a wonderfully designed massage bed which looked beautifully "designy" but was perfectly functional as well. I thought "wouldn't it be great to have an ultra-reasonable massage place in Singapore?". We have lots of spas and massage palces but they usually fall within two extremes - super high end and ultra cheap & cheerful (especially cheerful for the men!). This idea almost went all the way, but my timing was off and when it came down to execution, the market was already flooded with mid-ranged massage destinations AND the labour market was also saturated with China girls with questionable morals. I'm generalising, I know and I apologise for this. But it is a reality in the massage industry, unfortunately.

Ok I'll stop now because if I keep going this post will go on forever. Before I go, I want to leave you with a great link that offers suggestions on how to nurture an idea till it bears fruit.

May your ideas live long and prosper.

PS: This post is about getting ideas. Not about turning them into a reality - I'm still trying to figure that one out!

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