It started as a simple question: How can a company help a community’s struggling food bank (and, of course, look like a good corporate citizen).

The answer wasn’t running yet another general food drive. Been there, done that. Besides, food drives were already happening in the community. Something was needed to elevate the regular ‘food drive’ into a bigger sphere, and involve more corporate partners, rather than everyone acting solo.

When faced with a challenge to help a local food bank, many people would indeed suggest a food drive. It’s what I call making the Obvious Choice. Fewer people take a step back and consider making a Now That’s Different! Choice.

Making an Obvious Choice is easy. It’s impulsive. It doesn’t require much, if any, consideration of bigger-picture goals.

Making a Now That’s Different! Choice takes time. You weigh pros and cons. You ask yourself questions like, “What hasn’t been done before?” Or, “What would really get people excited and really want to participate?” Or, “How can we put a new twist on a common idea?”

Here’s what I suggested: 1) Announce the sponsorship of a community-wide corporate food cans sculpture building competition using nothing but canned goods. 2) On judging day, rate all sculptures and choose the winners. 3) Recruit a car dealership to use its pickup trucks to collect and deliver the food to the food bank.

The end result was phenomenal. More than 3,000 pounds of canned goods were used to build sculptures in the community!

Imagine if a regular food drive approach was used. I doubt 3,000 pounds would’ve been collected.

So, what does this mean to you and brainstorming ideas in the workplace? Always try to incorporate the two-step method to formulating ideas. Go ahead and come up with the Obvious Choice (hey, everyone, comes up with an Obvious Choice when developing ideas). Then, take a step back and develop a Now That’s Different! Choice.

People who come up with great ideas have mastered this skill.