I used to carry a small stack of notecards in the breast pocket of my button-down shirts. I wanted to have something to jot down quick notes on in the moment - wherever that may be. It worked pretty well. At the end of the day I usually had two or three cards with various and sundry musings and ideas scribbled on them. Of course, then I would shove those cards into a book, leave them on my nightstand, stack them next to my computer, leave them lying on the kitchen counter with the mail, or otherwise consign them to the dustbin of obscurity - never to be found again. Too many good ideas are lost.
I'm sure there were more than a few really good ideas on those cards that ended up being lost, and never found again. Others were probably best disposed of as quickly as possible. That's the problem with ideas. It's hard to tell the winners from the losers. Regardless, we still jot them down on napkins at the restaurant, keep them on notepads in the office, sticky notes on the monitor, and scraps of paper stuck to the refrigerator. It's rare that we have a single place to keep all our ideas.
What are some of the attributes that would make for a great tool to keep our ideas? First, I'd like it to be as visually oriented as possible. Pictures and drawings help bring imagination to life. Something like DaVinci's notebooks. There should be room for scribbles and sketches of whatever comes to mind. There also needs to be room for notes and descriptive material. Some folks (like me) live through words. It doesn't have to be highly structured - room for bullet points and lists is just fine. But we need a place to describe what our pictures and drawings are about. We also need a place where we can refine our ideas. We need to be able to tack enhancements and refinements to our thoughts arbitrarily wherever they may belong. We need space for our ideas to grow. Finally, it would be great if we had something that would remind us to review our collection of half-baked creative genius every once in a while. I have old notebooks piled on my bookshelf that never fail to astonish me with the creativity contained within them when I go back to review them.
I believe that exploring ideas: good, bad or silly, is a very healthy activity that we need to do more of. Exploring ideas helps build confidence and self-esteem. Innovation, even of the humblest kind at the smallest scale, broadens our horizons. Ideation is important to our well-being.
To that end I've done two things to try in my own way to further that goal for others. First, I've built an app to use as a place to keep ideas and generate new ones. It's a bit of hubris on my part to think that I can build an app that helps people find ideas. I'm probably doing it wrong. If so, I'd love to know how I can improve it. Please let me know. The app is free, you can find it here.
In addition to the app, I'm running innovation workshops. The concept is simple: many of us know that we need to do new things with our businesses, but it's unclear what. My innovation workshops are a great way for you and your team to generate and explore new ideas together. We use a combination of ideation techniques drawn from sources like Michael Michalko, Michael Gelb, Tom & David Kelley and others to help draw out the best ideas in your organization. If you are interested, contact me.