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Slowly, over the past 18 months or so, I’ve been building an army.

That sounds grandiose, and somewhere in the British countryside alarms are probably going off as the AI misses the context. But seriously, I have been. It’s an army of tools to get people thinking in new ways; to generate ideas that, to those with whom I’m working, they’d never thought themselves capable of.

One of the things in my arsenal is Idea Equations.

They’re so simple that I don’t know why I’d not spoke their name out loud before. I like the name because the majority of people I know detest algebra. They recall those moments at school when a mathematics teacher said the lesson would be about finding X. They weren’t talking pirate treasure maps, either.

The backstory
Being married to a maths teacher, I know that the usual refrain is: why do I need to learn this? It’s not as if I’m ever going to use it. When I ask people if they like algebra, I get this:


Yet, of course, algebra, in its purest form, is about solving problems. Now that’s something I know a fair bit about.

The thing about creating ideas in advertising, is that it’s the preserve of a department, a few people, generally a creative duo – copywriter and art director. Having grown up doing things in ‘digital’ agencies, groups spanned more than these two disciplines. Conversations had to happen as others sought to understand one another.

This is what drives Idea Equations: conversation.

X over Y add Z = IDEAS
It’s a simple premise, this use of algebra. And when you apply it with some constraints, it becomes really powerful. Ideas can be created in a minute. Problems can be solved. And in infinite ways. I’ve used this concept a few times now, and the more I do it and more I see that it’s a really good way to get people thinking differently.

On Saturday 28 November, I took part in the launch of Next Day Better in London. It was great fun, and seeing how people took to Idea Equations in what was only a few minutes – and as the first speaker, I’m not sure anyone was expecting to actually do anything other than sit and listen – was fantastic to see.

Over 100 cards were filled out, by around 35 people.


They were a talking point throughout the breaks on the day. There is more to do, as conversations continue, as I’m certain they will.

And this simple framework is something I’m sure people will take from my talk and use in their everyday lives. They’ll be using algebra. And they may even grow to like it.