• Matt Walker

What Chip Kelly Taught Me About Concepting

Speed. Speed. Speed. More. More. More. It takes 100 crap ideas to lay the foundation for a single good one.

Chip Kelly. Former head coach of the Oregon (my alma mater) Ducks.  Current head coach of the Philadelphia (my least favorite city) Eagles. Ok, so I really have nothing against Philly, just the Eagles. But I digress.

Coach Kelly left Oregon for the NFL. And in so doing, left an indelible mark on the game of college football – SPEED. If  you’ve seen the Oregon Ducks play in the past few years, then you know, they’re fast, fast, fast. I once saw the team walking out of a hotel lobby, they even did that fast. They get to the line fast. They call their play fast. They execute their plays fast. Opposing teams would fake injury just to slow them down. As a result, at least partially, Oregon would brag about their team’s stellar conditioning. How the use of speed was all designed to basically wear down the other team. We’re faster than they are. We wear them down. We in the game. Well, that’s a small part of it. I tend to think that most elite college football teams are pretty well conditioned. So here’s the bigger part: It was all about playing the odds. The faster you are, the more plays you can get off. The more plays you can get off, the more chances you have to score. That’s it. That’s the power of speed.

So, how does that apply to ideas? To coming up with the all-powerful concept? The one that’s never been seen, never been done, kills ‘em in the conference room, and drives home a huge win? Again…SPEED. Stacking the odds in your favor early in the conceptual process. Here’s why and how:

Ideas. You need to generate a lot of them ( A LOT OF THEM) to get to one great one. The more ideas you generate (most of them will probably suck), the greater the odds are that you’ll eventually stumble into a gem. Ideas open doors to new ideas. One leads to another idea and so forth and so on. They all build off of each other. That’s why we need to come up with a lot of ideas.

Here’s why we need to come up with them quickly:

Use the tactic of speed to shut off your own internal judgment.  If you’re focused on the next idea, and the next idea, and the next idea, and the next idea…you don’t give that little voice in your mind the opportunity to say, “That idea is awful. That will never work. You’re never going to come up with a great idea.” You need to silence that little bugger. If you start thinking negatively about your ability to come up with great ideas, you’ll never come up with any of them.

Conversely, if that little voice starts telling you that you just came up with a pretty darn good idea…well then…cool, mission accomplished, you don’t need to think any more, you just came up with a pretty good idea. But is it great? You’ll never know because you stopped coming up with ideas.

Help yourself out. When your job is coming up with ideas, start the process early by coming up with a lot of them, and quickly. Set a goal. 20 ideas in 10 minutes. 100 ideas in 30 minutes. Whatever. Just set a goal. Then, set your timer. Grab some note cards or some post-it notes and go. One idea per card/note. One after the other after the other after the other after…until your time’s up. Don’t stop. Don’t judge. Just think, write, on to the next.

Once your time is up, then and only then, is it ok to let the little voice of judgment have his or her say. Go through that fat stack of thinking, pull out your top 5 ideas, evaluate them, build on them, combine them. Or give it a rest, walk away, let your subconscious chew them over, and come back to them later. If there’s something that’s worth working on…work on it. If not, start over. Go for 200 ideas. And go Ducks!