Ideas can be fleeting, fickle things. Sometimes they arise out of nowhere, capture your imagination and take flight before you know it, while others seem to flitter just out of reach, giving you only a glimmer of what they might contain.
Frustratingly, they’re also prone to vanishing, never to be seen again, often without even a memory to indicate that they ever existed.
But in business, ideas are your lifeblood. They’re the impetus that helps you initiate improvements, create products and services that never existed before, and capture your audience’s attention in your sales and marketing material.
Are you treating yours with the respect they deserve?
I’m embarrassed to admit that for a long time, I didn’t. Here’s why.
We rarely value things that come easily to us
New ideas are something I’m rarely short of. I’m one of those people who has so many that if I’m not careful it can take me a ridiculously long time to decide which one I’m going to action.
And since they come at me thick and fast, the vast majority of my ideas can’t be acted on immediately.
I also tend to completely forget some of my ideas soon after they appear, or to disregard them without taking the time exploring them in depth (especially when they’re not immediately relevant to whatever I’m currently focused on).
In a nutshell, I have such an abundance of ideas that I’ve been guilty of taking them for granted and letting them go to waste.
Can you relate?
Your ideas are valuable assets
Over the past couple of years, I’ve gradually come to realise that my creativity is my greatest business asset, and that it’s therefore in my best interests to set up structures and working conditions that enable it to flow.
That creativity optimisation process is ongoing, and probably will be for the foreseeable future.
I’m gradually chipping away at various aspects of the status quo that are conspiring against it though, and with each new layer of creativity constraint that I unearth, I’m intrigued by the new levels of self-awareness that come to light.
My latest flash-of-the-bleeding-obvious is that although I’m very disciplined about treating my time and money as assets to invest wisely, I hadn’t been paying any attention at all to the business value of my steady stream of ideas, and as a result have often frittered them away.
Everything starts with an idea
A rare few of my ideas have been harnessed and acted on immediately, but many have just been hastily captured in my journal or some random digital location, and countless others have been recklessly left behind to wither and die, never to see the light of day again.
Yet, every good thing that I’ve made happen in my business has been the result of an idea. Whether it came from my own imagination or was inspired by something I noticed elsewhere, it was an idea that spurred me on to make something happen. Every. Single. Time.
What’s the cost of ignoring your ideas?
This has turned into one of those things that you can’t un-see once you’ve seen it.
I shudder if I allow myself to imagine the myriad of opportunities I’ve let slide by because I wasn’t treating my ideas as the valuable assets that they are.
Now that I’ve finally (and very belatedly) realised the error of my ways, I’ve come to recognise that if I’m serious about optimising my creativity and my profit, my ideas are business resources that I’m absolutely not prepared to squander any more.
Putting your ideas in the ideas bank
To put it another way, instead of treating them like largely irrelevant and intangible distractions, I now see my ideas as unrealised assets, some of which will be capable of generating a payoff somewhere down the road, even if I can’t invest time in them right now.
As a result, my current creativity-boosting mission is to elevate the status and respect with which I treat my ideas – past, present and future.
To ensure they have pride of place in my business infrastructure, I’m investing time, discipline and a little bit of money to ensure that going forward my ideas will be recorded and stored in a way that preserves them for posterity and ensures they’re always easily accessible so I can draw on them when needed.
I see it like depositing my money in the bank. My ideas are now being kept safe and sound for me but are always available when I need them. They may even be generating a little interest until I’m ready to withdraw them, and I’ll leverage some into higher paying investment opportunities later on.
Getting to this point has been more than a little bit like herding cats. My super-duper new ideas bank has taken me ages to design and get working well, and it’s still a work in progress. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I may never finish transferring the gazillions of jotted notes, random Word documents, saved social media posts and other flotsam and jetsam of my mental meanderings into it.
Already though, I’m excited and relieved that I’m now the proud owner of an ever-growing repository of inspiration for my future self to draw on at will.
I’ve also been hugely impressed and inspired by the many of the long-forgotten ideas that my past self made a note of, some of which are finally destined to see the light of day over the next weeks and months.
In a future article in this series, I’ll spill the beans on how I’m setting up and using my ideas bank, but in the meantime, I’m intrigued to learn about how you treat your ideas too, so please share your tips and experiences in the comments.