Do you come up with a lot of ideas? Do you get to act on them? Do you even remember them when it’s time to act? Getting an idea comes as quick as 1, 2, 3, but keeping the idea is harder.
1. When Ideas Come
When ideas come they happen fast. Often we may think, “Wow, that’s random. That came out of nowhere!” but it is likely not the case. Ideas are how our mind puts together concepts to solve problems. Not all problems are our own, so they don’t feel close and familiar. Ideas can come to us in lots of ways and at almost any time. Here are three key places you will likely come up with new ideas.
- In your sleep – Often when you are sleeping a great idea can wake you up. It may even keep you awake as you go through the process of evaluating this opportunity.
- From someone else – You may hear your next big idea when in a conversation with someone else, listening to others talk, at a conference, from a TV commercial, while reading a book, etc.. The idea that comes out of nowhere is likely an idea that was catalyzed by another experience. Surround yourself with interesting people and events to continue creating great ideas.
- While solving a problem – This is the classic time when people come up with some of the world’s greatest inventions. If you are familiar with the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” then you are familiar with the idea that having a problem forces our mind to go into solution mode. You will likely generate many ideas and solutions during this period.
2. How to Capture Ideas
The second biggest challenge with ideas is that they are fleeting. If you do not capture the information when you have it, you may not get a chance later. Think about a time you woke in the middle of the night with a great idea and then in the morning you thought to yourself, “now what was that great idea I had last night?” Don’t wait to record your thoughts. Don’t try to evaluate whether it is worth recording, just get the idea down.
- Keep paper beside your bed – For those of us that have a brain that creates solutions to problems when they sleep, it is imperative to have something close at hand to record your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out, just enough information to get you back on track in the morning. I have a sticky note pad and pen on my table beside my bed. I record short reminders of my idea on the page in the dark. It’s hard to read, but I have not yet been unable to recall my idea using this process.
- Have an idea book – Once you have a good idea spend a short amount of time fleshing out the details. I like to put the details of my ideas in an idea book. I have ideas for books, businesses, and patentable products in my book. If you are worried about ‘first to market’ or secrecy then get others to initial the pages with ideas on them and date it. They don’t have to read it, just confirm that they signed and the signature is theirs if you do end up fighting over a patent.
- Tell Your Team – Get it on the meeting agenda so you can discuss the value for your development for current or future plans.
3. How to Act on Ideas
Once we have an idea it is often difficult to know which one we should act on, if at all. Of course the biggest challenge with ideas is actually getting into action. As entrepreneurs we can be flooded with ideas, you know them, the Bright Shiny Objects that distract us from our core focus. Or do they? Some ideas are in line with our core focus and should be acted on. Some ideas are new and should be acted on in the future. Some are simply distractions and should be ignored.
- Enlist others in your circles, like peers, mentors, advisors, investors, etc. to hear out your idea and help you take appropriate action.
- Make it part of your goals. Put it into your business plan or create a project plan for it. If my ideas are for the growth of my current businesses then I get them into my business plan where I can act on them. If your idea is the missing piece of a service or product you have been creating then get it into the designs and process of that project.
- Have tasks you do each day that will further that action if it is in your current plan. Put it in your calendar to revisit your idea in the future so you can add it to your ‘ToDo’ list at that time.
Ideas are the solutions to your current challenges and your future growth. Don’t let them get away.