If you like food, you'd love my eldest sister. She's one of those people who can look at a few leftovers in the fridge and turn them into an experience to make your tastebuds weep with joy. She never used recipes, even for precise baking, she just makes it up as she goes along.
Or at least it looks that way.
Just like Roger Federer's tennis looks fluid, intuitive and effortless, when it's the result of hours and hours of relentless practice, to the point when he doesn't really think about his forehand, his footwork or his service action, it just happens.
It's the same with my sister. Do you remember Matilda? The precocious Roald Dahl little girl who had read Dickens' back catalogue by the age of four? My eldest sister used to sneak out of bed at 5am and make a chocolate cake before everyone got up at the age of five. Years and years of learning the subtlety of how ingredients work together, the chemistry that makes a sauce thicken at a precise point, knowing when a steak is precisely medium rare. She's got it all stored in her brain and, with all that rigourous knowledge there, all the techniques and natural as breathing, she can invent at will.
Planning is like that really. When I started out I was told it takes five years to really get to grips to working on strategy with confidence, be that media, brand, comms or anything else (and are they really that seperate or is this fed by agencies with different fees to justify?). Seven years to find your own distinctive voice.
Because there is just too much to know and absorb, to many connections to make. Not just the pivotal observation that unites category, brand, product (yes, they are not the same thing), customers and culture...and that's hard enough.
The really good strategy unites the sensibilities of what the client tends to buy, the agenda behind their business as a whole, the agency direction and 'brand' (it's there like it or not), the characteristics of the suits, the kind of work the creative team tends to do and how they like to be briefed, the motivations of partner agencies, the buying preferences of the investment teams in the media agency, what deals have been made, the fact you can't touch Google for a few months right now.
Then there is the really excellent strategy that brings in all that reading and reference you ceaselessly do. Anthropology, psychology, reference from all sorts of cultural touchpoints. For example, you might now that only 2% of UK people believe health claims made by food brands, but then it's worth knowing that humans never believe facts unless you make them emotionally want to believe it - and if you are targeting teenagers, you're more likely to persuade them if you acknowledge they are most influenced by the most popular kid in class, which them makes sense of engaging with Vloggers...as long as you know young folks watch far more TV than YouTube, so you'll need to use them in mainstream media.
You get the picture.
In other words, while creative thinking techniques etc are great to help you get ideas, it all boils down to hard work unfortunately. Doing this for long enough to get to a point where you're always thinking without thinking.
Which is also why my sister finds it hard to share recipes, she's got to a point where she can't explain it, she just does it.
That's actually the point of strategy templates, briefing forms and powerpoint type stuff. Unlike my sister, a planner isn't any good just coming with business building thinking, they need to not explain it to other folks, they need to make them desperate to bring it to life.
Churchill once said his best spontaneous quips had been worked on days, maybe weeks before. It's like I'm afraid, creative thinking and breakthrough ideas are not about sitting on beanbags drinking coffee and having a lovely time. Genius is bloody, rigorous hard work and years of training.