Second Hand Brilliance

Second hand brilliance - image for article by Greg Alder

Recycling is good. This message is drilled into us at school. Our governments encourage us to recycle diligently and habitually. They tell us it’s the responsible thing to do. Remember this fact. Especially remember it when a client accuses you of recycling an idea.

For some reason, our support for recycling doesn’t extend to creativity. Recycling ideas can result in clients questioning what they’re paying for. You can counter with the it-was-brilliant-the-first-time-and-it’s-still-brilliant argument. But if clients are paying you big bucks, many feel they have a right to get something original and unique for that money. When they discover that this current idea was originally generated for someone else, they immediately imagine that every little thing you’ve done for them also originally had someone else’s name engraved on it.

You can hear them now. “I’m not paying you $30,000 a month to dig things out of your old files or pinch them off the Internet! I can do that myself!”

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Value, on the other hand, is anybody’s guess, a complete free-for-all. Some people look at an antique and see something passé, irrelevant and used. Damaged goods. Others look at something new and see mass production, absence of character, disposability and unproven performance.

Here’s an article from Melbourne’s The Age newspaper:

“The lush tropical hinterland of Townsville, in north Queensland, is not where a southerner spoilt by the multicultural cuisine of Melbourne would expect to find Australia’s most expensive cup of coffee.

But Hervey’s Range Heritage Tea Rooms located at the top of the Hervey Range, west of Townsville, now has a $50 cup of coffee on the menu.

The rare Kopi Luwak beans that make the expensive brew are retrieved from the droppings of the Luwak, a cat-like member of the civet family which is found in the jungles of Indonesia.

Tea room owner Allan Sharpe said the Luwaks eat the ripe coffee cherries, but the inner bean is not digested, meaning they can be retrieved from the animal’s droppings.

The beans, which are then washed and given only a light roast so as to not destroy the complex flavours – cost $1250 per kilogram.”

$1250 a kilo might seem reasonable to the coffee vendor. This is a rare and unique coffee experience, after all. Coffee beans are eaten by the rare and exquisite luwak in the Indonesian jungle. Jungle-dwelling Indonesians collect the beans, enriched by their passage through this exotic beast, from the jungle floor. The beans are washed, roasted and turned into an espresso with an unusually mellow characteristic. There are people who’ll happily pay $50 for such a unique experience.

But there are others of you out there who are thinking that this is absurd. To start with, these coffee beans have been recycled! Via a luwak’s toxic digestive system. Jungle dwellers with poor personal hygiene have retrieved the beans from the luwak shit. And now it’s on sale for $50 a cup!

Unique coffee experience? Or recycled civet excrement? Antique with character or flawed second-hand junk? Somebody must be wrong.

The greatest jewels in the world have had multiple owners. The current owner doesn’t think any less of the glittering stone because it has adorned someone else’s finger or neck or tiara.

The most valuable violins are 300 years old. They have passed through many hands. Their histories enhance their value.

Many of the creative ideas you’re recycling haven’t even been worn. You took them out of the display case once or twice and that’s it. You’d think your clients would recognise your brilliance, put aside the issue of previous clients and be eternally grateful.

And yet, here’s your client getting belligerent because you’ve dusted off a classic idea (of your own or someone else’s – it doesn’t really matter). You even improved on it a bit, although your client doesn’t seem to notice or care.

Really, what’s a sustainability supporter supposed to do with those still-brilliant but unused gems of ideas?

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