Why do great ideas crash while crap ones soar?
I try to avoid driving through the St John's Wood area in London as much as possible. The traffic always comes to a standstill at the same spot almost all day, every day. Because there is a spot where groups of people love to cross the road. They'll even pause for a while to take a photo of themselves.
Tourists from all over the world want to be seen crossing the road at this spot. But out of all the places in the United Kingdom why do they choose this particular spot?
It's a pedestrian crossing.
And out of the thousands of other crossings what makes it so special?
Well, it was featured on the cover of 'Abbey Road' – the final album released by The Beatles – and had the four band members walking across it.
The idea to take such an iconic photograph must have taken ages to come up with right?
Nope. It actually took less than a minute.
By the time the album was finished The Beatles were ready to split up. They were sick of each other and were barely on speaking terms but needed a name and cover image for the new album.
Someone suggested calling it 'Everest' after noticing the sound engineer smoked Everest branded cigarettes. This could have made a great excuse to travel to Mount Everest for the photoshoot, except nobody wanted to.
Eventually, Paul said they should just name it after the studio where the album was recorded: Abbey Road.
All they had to do for the cover image was go outside and be photographed crossing the road. There was even a pedestrian crossing there.
So that’s what they did.
While a policeman stopped the traffic for few minutes, a photographer perched upon a small ladder and took six pictures of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison crossing the road (in that order).
Paul chose number five as the best snap and the job was done. The Beatles never had to share each other's company again.
But then people saw things in the photographs that caused urban legends to stir. One them was that Paul had actually died during recording and there was actually 'proof' in the photograph to support the conspiracy.
Because Paul was the only Beatle who was walking barefoot while the others wore shoes, it obviously meant something was terribly wrong.
Except it had much to do about nothing.
Paul complained that his new sandals were hurting him after his first attempt at crossing Abbey Road.
The photographer offered to replace them but Paul wanted to carry on saying:
"No, let’s just get it over with".
So he removed his sandals and walked barefoot instead. The rest is history.
The image has become so iconic that 50 years later people still travel from all over the world just to be photographed on that crossing.
The pedestrian crossing itself has gained Grade II status by Historic England for its "cultural and historical importance" – which means it holds such a high level of national interest that every effort must be made to preserve it.
And yet the idea didn't take a marketing department to come up with or a designer to execute it. Which just proves that we don't control ideas as much as we think we do.
Ideas don't come from data or science. Ideas don't need marketing or data analysts. Often the best ideas don't even come from us.
That's because ideas often begin and end in the minds of our audience.