Ashwini Gangal

"It'll help agency executives ask the right questions": Ex-O&M hand R Sridhar on his book on ideation

"It is meant for anyone who wants things to be better... It could be the CEO, CMO, CHRO. It's for decision-makers who are dissatisfied with the status quo," R Sridhar, brand consultant and CEO Coach, tells afaqs!, about his recently released book, 'Unlock The Real Power of Ideation', that took him around two years to write.

"It'll help agency executives ask the right questions": Ex-O&M hand R Sridhar on his book on ideation

The foreword has been written by PepsiCo India's Chairman and CEO, Shiv Shivakumar, who knows the author from his (Shiv's) brand manager days at Unilever; Sridhar, at the time, was CEO of Ogilvy and Mather Direct.

Sridhar has spent 25 years at O&M, during which time he set up Ogilvy Consulting. In 2000, he quit O&M to set up his own consulting firm IDEAS-RS.

Over the last 17 years, he has been consulting with several big ticket brands, including Asian Paints, Cadbury, Colgate Palmolive, Dabur, Godrej, GSK, HDFC, Hindustan Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Kotak Mahindra, Pepsi, Tata Motors and Vodafone, to name a few.

Published by Productivity & Quality Publishing, the book has 318 pages.

Edited Excerpts

First of all, define 'ideation' in one line...

​Ideation is a way of thinking that helps us make things better than what they are today.

What role does ideation play in today's world of data-rich, digital marketing? How different is it from the role it played, say, 10 years back?

In an era of data-rich, digital marketing it is ideas that make the difference. Ideation helps that process. It does not matter whether you 'ideate' as an individual or in a team.

The role is no different from what it was before. It has become more important in a fast moving crowded market place where differentiation is key. Time is short. Loyalties vanish. A well designed ideation process can make a difference to the quality of ideas and hence performance in the market place.

What is the biggest need gap are you looking to fill with this book? What's the wrong you're looking to right, here?

Everyone wants new ideas that work, but don't know how to make that happen. Everyone wants brainstorming sessions to deliver results but don't know how to do that.​

More specifically, what's in it for ad agency executives?

There are simple tools in the book that they can use. They can learn how to ask the right questions, present cogently, define the right problem, select bold ideas, make a case for a new idea in the context of the client's objective, help the client write a succinct and sharp brief, understand how to prioritise, generate a variety of possibilities as solutions and help think of radical ideas which may not cost money! Even the art of simple conversation could be something they can learn.

This is something I asked a marketer-turned-consultant just last week in the context of his new book on marketing - There are many books on brand building in the market today. What sets yours apart?

The biggest difference is - it is jargon-free. It speaks to people in a simple manner. It uses stories and examples. It treats the reader with respect and does not talk down from a pedestal. ​​It gives a ringside view of what happens in an organisation in an interesting way.​

David Ogilvy said, 'You can't bore people into buying.' I have adapted that to: 'You can't bore people into reading a book.' I know attention spans are short and I am competing with Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.

There are some very senior people who said they finished reading the book in one stretch, or two. That to me is huge compliment. I had a writing coach who helped me manage this well.

I showed the first chapter to a bunch of close friends whose opinions I respect. They tore it to bits. That really helped me re-look at my entire approach!

What prompted the decision to write this book?

What triggered the process was a question from a client: "What happens to all that you have learnt? Don't you owe it to your clients, mentors, friends to share what you have learnt? Did you not learn because of generous bosses, friends, clients who shared their knowledge and experiences with you without hesitation?"

That made me stop and think. ​​That was the trigger.​