Ideas tend to appear out of nowhere. They are often ephemeral and fragile, difficult to catch, and if not properly handled, might leave, never to return. Working with these incoming ideas can either be straightforward or not so simple.
To begin with, if ideas are not saved in any manner, they disappear. They can be like sand falling in between our fingers, irretrievable. Other times, the idea is simply the seed for more creation. The very act of recording it can inspire even more ideas.
Throughout my career, I have attempted to devise a system for working with ideas. While this system will always be a work in progress, the one I have been utilizing has helped me begin to organize my thoughts and promote my creativity.
I took a course on creativity once. One of the practices the professor recommended was to keep an idea journal. The goal of the journal is to write down one new idea a day as a daily reminder to harvest new and fresh ideas.
I can then look back at the ideas I recorded, and more importantly, it has become the space I give to creativity during my day. Sometimes, I can’t think of any new ideas, and my mind is dry. At that point, I will dig deeper and find that I have had a new idea about an approach to a problem or a tweak on a process. I’ve learned that creativity can happen anywhere. Yes, sometimes the ideas are very impactful and big, but this is rare. Usually, they are small improvements or new perspectives, which cumulatively are just as important.
When I need to come up with ideas on a certain topic intentionally, I will brainstorm thoughts in one sitting. I will then keep that list going in case further ideas come to mind, which is how I work with the subjects for each of my blog posts. When I was first figuring out whether I should write this blog, I made a list of possible topics to see how easily I could come up with subjects. In that first sitting alone, I came up with about 30.
Whenever I have a new idea for a subject for my blog, I write it down in this ongoing list. Then when it comes time to write my next blog post, I refer to my list and start writing. Sometimes, the seed of the idea I had for the blog is diverted, and my writing takes me another way. The origin of that idea, however, is what led me to my destination.
Set as a Task
Last year, I worked on a formal mechanism for reporting the company’s objectives and metrics on a monthly and quarterly basis. It is an idea I thought we were ready for about a year ago, and I originally set it as a task with a due date for a few months later.
Some ideas need to mature; this is the mentality that I have found helps me nurture the idea and provides it time to grow. This approach saves the idea for the future while simultaneously allowing my mind to give it shape slowly. I will then fill in the details little by little, and when I am ready, I set it into motion. It took me a few months as we gradually created the pieces that allowed us to report the information we need. The system evolved over the months and is finally ready.
Ironically enough, I never considered myself a writer growing up, which is why it took me so long to get this blog started. A little voice inside me that wouldn’t give up kept telling me to do it, so I finally started writing so I would have some peace. Writing has become a necessity for me.
What I didn’t expect from writing is how important a tool it has become to develop and clarify my ideas. Even as I am writing this blog entry, I am understanding and even creating the mechanism with which I work with ideas. Writing, in a sense, creates me as I create it.
You don’t need to write a blog to benefit from writing. Journaling can serve the same purpose, and it is as easy as keeping a small notebook next to a desk. The practice of writing is extremely useful, as it provides an opportunity to express the information that is stored in our minds and gives it shape according to our context.
Harvesting from Books
Books are one of my primary sources for new concepts. Sometimes I will read a book that has so many ideas that it is necessary to organize them all. I highlight relevant passages, make notes, and export them from my Kindle. I’ll then make a list of ideas to implement from the document. Little by little, I incorporate each of the relevant thoughts.
Other times, I will set reminders for myself to go back and read the notes I have taken from the books I’ve read. After some time, the concepts in the book will have had a chance to marinate, and I will have a clearer idea of what to implement.
The ability to come up with and develop ideas is extremely valuable. It’s almost like working with a precious element that needs to be cared for and shaped. As with anything, the skill will grow with enough experience and practice, and the ideas and creativity that have been carefully nurtured will yield the results we seek.