It starts with a product (tangible or virtual), the market or audience it's aiming for and of course what does it stand for. Then comes the strategy, and only then do we start searching for the right idea.
Now of course not every idea is creative. But who really defines what is creative? Is it a visual or a textual thing, is it an arty thing? What is it? Well I don't know :-) I only know what is creative in my book. There is a saying: "To each his own" so I guess it's applicable in this case too. An idea can be interpreted or perceived differently to different people whether we believe it's creative or not.
What have we learned then? Nothing, this is not school, it's just me thinking out loud.
So, go and find your creative way or in the words of a "death row" inmate: "Just do it"