Often in advertising and marketing there is debate as to whether the industries are more art or science. I happen to think that good science and good art don't have many differences from each other and that it's actually the combination of what might typically be referred to as "artistic" approaches and "scientific" approaches working together that breed the best insights.
But there are two different processes we can go through to get to those insights... And that's where an interesting difference lies and where the science of idea finding comes in.
Facts --> Idea
The first is Facts to Idea, or the brick-by-brick approach. Based on a logical progression of information this is the more traditional process where A leads to B then to C and so on... It begins with an observation which is followed by the accumulation of data and then the analysis of that data. Once everything is analyzed there is more observation to verify the facts and then the process is done. This is the most common approach in business as it's relatively safe with many opting out points. Facts to Idea is widely taught in business schools. The approach has brought us frozen food at the supermarket and the proof of gravity's existence.
Idea --> Support
The second is Idea to Support. In this approach one doesn't start with an observation but rather with an idea brought forth from background knowledge. Once the idea is thought of the rest of the process goes about disproving why the idea won't work via experiments and prototyping. A diagram from Stephen King's excellent 1981 presentation of Advertising: Art and Science highlights this wonderfully:
Idea to Support is what Galileo and Einstein practiced. We see it today in the likes of Bezos and Jobs. They start by disproving accepted ideas through volunteering something entirely new.
These are two very different approaches. So which one is right?
I've studied and experimented a lot with both and I must say that neither side has convinced me they are exclusively optimal. I think more to the point is how well you do each of them. And when you do each of them; "change the category" and "change the world" ideas usually come from Idea to Support because it's starting from a place of dissatisfaction with the status quo.
It's important to be cognizant that there are two types of idea creation and that everyone probably has a preferred method. Which means if you're choosing a method that goes against-type for someone it's helpful to discuss the differences at the beginning.