A session at last year’s SXSW looked for common themes from people at the top of their game in different creative fields – designers, musicians and venture capitalists. The most pointed question for the panel was “what proportion of your ideas come to fruition?” That’s a life-blood question for VCs, who weigh up investor pitches from start-ups every day. But’s it’s just as relevant for musicians working out whether to expand a riff into a track, or writers getting lines and sketches into a show.
Here’s what we heard at the event:
Bing Gordon of Kleiner Perkins hears 200 pitches a year and makes two investments. That’s an idea ratio of 1:100.
Aileen Lee of Kleiner Perkins hears 16 pitches a week and makes one investment a month. That’s an idea ratio of 1:69.
Damian Kulash of OK Go takes 50-100 scraps into 15-30 projects that he refines into one album. There are ten tracks on the band’s forthcoming album, which makes for an idea ratio of 1:10.
As a comparison from the world of advertising, the writing team behind the Most Interesting Man In The World campaign for Dos Equis write 400 one-liners in order to create the 30 lines that make it into the campaign every year: an idea ratio of 1:13.
What does this tell us? Creative people have to let go of most of their ideas. Most ideas don’t make it from concept to fruition. And, if you want to have better ideas, have more ideas.
(Full disclosure: I attended the event at SXSW, and have worked on the Dos Equis advertising campaign in the past.)