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  • Writer's pictureThe Editor

Learn from the greats

Looking at past winners could help bring new ideas into the present.

The Oscars.

The Grammys.

The Brits.


The UK Roofing Awards.

Milkman of the Year.

Every industry has its awards. You might think your industry has too many of them. Or it might seem like they're a bit of a joke. But they can actually be a great source of inspiration and ideas.

However the person, project or business was chosen - by public vote or a judging panel - someone saw fit to hand them the title of 'Best Something or Other'. So it's worth checking the winning person or project out to see what all the fuss is about - because you could get to learn something from the best in the business.

What they did that was so 'great' may at first not seem all that relevant to a creative problem you're wrestling with. But take a few moments and you might be able to use some of the background to that award winner's achievement and apply it to your own creative conundrum. For example:

What problem did they solve?

What accomplishment was made?

What product was created?

What connections did they achieve?

What insights did they gain?

How did they go about achieving any of these goals?

That's the crux of it. Milkman (or Milkwoman) of The Year isn't just handed out to the person who delivers the most bottles. An industry that was predicted long ago to be on the verge of extinction is still going today. To stay in business, let alone be the best, means you've probably got to innovate and get creative with your offering. How does the winner of the Golden Milk Bottle* go about doing that? That's surely worth looking into.

There are going to be plenty of awards you haven't even heard of. Fertile territory for a deep dive. The creative industries are brimming with awards, but other industries only have a handful of events on the calendar. If you're doing work within a particular sector, a quick win can be to check out the key awards, then get to know more about the names on a winners list. But I reckon you can't beat looking at other, random industries for some real ideas stimulus.

And then there's learning from the past. Some awards have been going for decades. The first Brit Awards was held in 1977. Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has been running since 1954. The 1st Grammys was in 1959. The first Oscars was 1929. Most of these big awards have all their past winners listed online.

But we can go one better. The Queen's (or King's) Birthday and New Year's Honours began in 1917 (though the honours listed online only go back as far as 2008). Whatever you think of them, the list is interesting who's who of that year, and frequently includes people who aren't rock stars or from the smart set. Checking out the less famous people is sure to send you on a journey of discovery around the internet to find out who these people are (or were).

If you prefer your awards to evoke a sense of handlebar moustaches and corsets, then check out the awards of The Royal Society, which has been handing out medals for achievement in science since the 1700s. Their oldest prize is the The Copley Medal, awarded for outstanding achievements in research within any branch of science. First awarded in 1731 to Stephen Gray "For his new Electrical Experiments - as an encouragement to him for the readiness he has always shown in obliging the Society with his discoveries and improvements in this part of Natural Knowledge".

Must've been a buzz to receive that honour.

The Royal Society's awards are a veritable roll call of science gods (and sadly only a few goddesses) from the past 250 years. I think it's fair to say we could learn a thing or two from that lot.

Whatever you think of awards - be they daft, for egomaniacs, or a good barometer of the industry they represent - they should be prized for the treasure trove of inspiration, information and innovation that they are. And they might just gift you a thought or two that leads to your next big idea.

*There is no Golden Milk Bottle, by the way. But you're welcome that award-winning idea should you need it.


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