Sir John Hegarty

I never liked being a judge at creativity awards. But for some reason, when organisers would approach me, I would often accept the invitation. In the run up to an event, you’re introduced to a handful of others who accompany you on the judging panel. Before getting down to the business of viewing the work, the group has a quick powwow to align on what it’s looking for. Without exception, someone would say: “I think originality is really important here.” At the mention of ‘originality’ I would shudder.

I have witnessed the destructive potential of this word first hand. When clients use originality as a benchmark, it means that no idea is ever novel enough. When creatives measure the strength of their work by it, nothing ever gets off the ground. The reason? Nothing – nothing – is original. Striving for it is a fool’s errand. And the commercial and psychological damage it wreaks is poorly understood (least so by the people who still insist on using it).

Ideas themselves are iterative. And the greatest creative efforts always derive from something that came before. When you disallow this, you quickly find that there is surprisingly little to work with. Fortunately, there is a far better word to use instead of the aforementioned: Fresh.

Using the word ‘fresh’ gives credence to the notion that your idea can come from elsewhere. That by taking something brilliant and giving it a twist, your work can take on a new and more subline meaning. ‘Fresh’ is an invigorating term, it implies limitless potential. Meanwhile, ‘original’ is an impossible metric that inhibits. If you find yourself judging the strength of an idea this week, ask yourself: “is it fresh?”