If you want to harness the power of your inner creativity to do great things in your business, start an idea file. An idea file is a list of ideas that you can draw on anytime you need one. Think of it as your “backburner.” One of my clients refers to it as an “Innovation Parking Lot” – a place where they collect innovative ideas for future inspiration.
The main reason it’s important to have an idea file is that it provides ideas when you need them, but there are other benefits as well. An idea file helps you organize your creative thoughts. With several ideas written down and ready to go, you can choose the idea you feel most inspired to run with at the moment.
An idea file also allows you to capture ideas whenever inspiration hits. You can jot down the idea no matter where you are (try using a scrap of paper or a note application on your smartphone) and add the idea to your idea file when you can get to your computer.
Although most people keep the idea file on a computer, you should be open to ideas everywhere you go. I recommend keeping a small notebook and pen in your car (and next to your bed) so you can easily jot down your ideas. There’s even a product, called AquaNotes, that allows you to take notes in the shower!
There are a variety of approaches to writing down your ideas. You may write a few words or you can describe the idea more fully. If you write down just a few words, there’s a chance you’ll forget the details of the idea by the time you add it to your file. So, record as much detail as necessary to remember the key points of the idea.
A rule of thumb for capturing ideas most effectively is that the first thought is the best thought. Write down whatever pops into your mind as quickly as possible. If an image, word or other outside stimulus inspired the idea, you may want to jot that down as well. For example, if the idea is a solution to a problem, record the details of the problem you were facing (or imagining) when the idea popped into your head.
There is no single method of keeping an idea file that works for everyone. Start with the basics as outlined above and make changes to fit your needs. You will find ways to modify the idea file as you continue to use this technique.
Steve Sponseller is an Intellectual Property Attorney and Innovation Strategist. He has 25 years of experience helping more than 1000 inventors and business leaders identify, develop, and protect innovative ideas. Get a complimentary copy of his Innovation Strategy Checklist to start creating a steady stream of innovative ideas that give your company a competitive advantage.