Innovation tools to tame the flow of ideas

- May 21, 2007 2 MIN READ

Megan Hill’s piece on mind mapping that got me pondering the theme of ideas, and in particular the flow of ideas.

Mind mapping is wonderful, but I find that ideas often flow well before they’re ready to be meaningfully dissected. Unless they are managed properly, ideas can be disruptive to productivity and focus.

I’ve talked before about the danger of pursuing too many ideas at once, and plenty of soloists, myself included, are guilty of this. I believe that ideas need to be tamed. Here are five innovation tools I use to tame the flow of ideas:

1. A manila folder

Exciting stuff, eh? A dedicated location for capturing my flow of ideas means they can move out of my head and into the folder. The relief is immediate.

2. A pen or pencil

Post-its, A4 sheets, serviettes, the back of business cards or envelopes…it matters not. When an idea comes I transcribe it and toss it into the folder. Neatness and order is not an issue at this stage, that comes later.

3. A dictaphone

I carry a digital recorder with me most of the time and blather in it whenever an idea pops up. Alternatively, I’ll use my mobile and leave a message on my voicemail. (“Hello Robert. It’s Robert…”) Later I scribble the idea down on paper and yup, into the folder it goes.

4. A whiteboard

Wouldn’t be without one. Often something pops up that has no immediate meaning or relevance. A couple of days on the whiteboard and it’s either expanded into something tangible or it’s wiped.

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5. My fingers

Next time you pick up a paper or magazine in your favourite café and find a snippet torn out, chances are it was me. I do this all the time and yes…straight into the folder it goes.

As you may imagine it’s not long before my folder is bursting with ideas at which point mind mapping comes in. It’s amazing how with a bit of effort, a hotch-potch of ideas will morph into an ordered plan.

For every folder that generates something valuable, many more get trashed. The overall benefit is that ideas no longer steal my focus, instead they hover pleasantly in the background like the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

What are your thoughts on taming the flow of ideas? Share your innovation tools and ideas below.