A few mornings ago I was stuck in the traffic (welcome to Chicago) and I had a crazy thought: how many ideas are people around me coming up with and how quickly they are evaporating? What would happen if everyone would hold to those ideas and acted on them? What if that happened everywhere, all the time? We would probably live in a different world. Unfortunately, not everybody is skilled, has the desire or believes something would happen if those ideas were recognized and acted upon. I also wondered how many of the great inventions we enjoy today started in a moment like that, likely a few.
For those of us in the business of innovation it is familiar to be part of a brainstorming session or some other similar way of structured brainstorming where people are brought together, presented with some sort of stimuli and asked to come up with ideas to solve a business issue. In these types of events people grab the ideas, write them on post-its and later act on them. Good and bad ideas are recognized, some will quickly die but others will get a life on their own and hopefully be around for a good period of time delivering value.
While techniques have been proven effective to systematize the generation of ideas in organizations, our brains don’t stop working just because the brainstorming session ended. Some of the best ideas tend to appear in the most unexpected moments and many times they come and go before we can blink our eyes, just as those ideas in the Edens Expressway blowing away before they became anything. Being able to recognize ideas, hold them in our brains and elaborate them is a developed skill. This is as true for the business issue we were trying to solve as for finding new ways to improve our lives at home – we must learn to recognize our ideas.
A simple technique I developed to do something with ideas is the following: When an interesting thought comes to my mind that seems like a possibility I think of two things 1) what can this become? and 2) what is the first thing I can do to make that happen? Then I create a voice note with the idea so I can revisit it at some point. If you are reading this essay you are helping me materialize an idea I had become a reality – ideasaboutideas™ was born this way!