Today let’s talk about what to do when you have an idea. There are lots of metrics and academic papers detailing how many ideas/projects/products added together equal one success. Robert Cooper’s book Winning at New Products gives you a 1 in 7 chance of turning an idea into a successful product on the market. Knowing this, and having been a part of many unsuccessful product development teams in my career, I take these statistics and inspiration very seriously. Your brain is a miracle. All day long it’s sifting through information and managing to keep your heart beating and your lungs moving air in and out of your body. One of the coolest things that it does, is play. When your brain plays you think of the weirdest things imaginable. It reminds me of a slot machine where you pull the lever and up pops something your mother said on Thursday, a pork chop and potholes. None of these things is seemingly connected and why you’d ever even think to connect them is somewhat worrisome. But connect them your brain does and so for a brief moment you think about those three random things. Some of the best inventions in the world have come from brain play. Noticing two or three seeming unconnected things and connecting them in a unique way is the power behind creative invention.
In my world this is where the magic happens. These moments where your mind is just playfully jumping from thought to thought can lead to some really great inventions. However, I read somewhere once but don’t know where now, that the difference between people and inventors is that inventors get out of the shower and try to create their ideas. Bringing us to today’s topic, recognizing and acting on inspiration.
There are lots of ways to capture your inspirations. You don’t need a special cell phone app or gadget. You just need a way to do two things. First, you need to document your thought anyway possible as soon as you can. Use any method that works for you. A voice recorder, a pencil, a whiteboard, Post-It(TM) Notes, a napkin at lunch all of these are perfect. You don’t need to be fancy you need to be diligent about capturing the thought. It’s never as clear as that first few minutes when your attention is completely captured by the possibility of a great idea. Next, you need to list one or two things you want to do within the next day to follow up on your idea. Because that’s where the rubber meets the road folks. Millions of great ideas go to the idea graveyard everyday because we quickly become overwhelmed with the idea of how to start working on them. So, what’s an inventor to do? I’ll tell you what. In the moment, when you are excited and the idea is sparkly, think of two things that you can do next. After you write down your idea (remember step one) immediately write down two tasks that you can do to keep the idea moving forward and then do them. Some of my favorite easy to do tasks are, search Google for this amazing product I’ve just thought of and see if I can find it or something similar and search Google patents for this amazing product and see if I can find anything like it or similar. If I take the time to do those two tasks my idea starts to get an outline and a shape. Maybe my searches will kill it dead. Drat ! this already exists. But maybe this search will lead me to a new and better idea in the same area. Maybe this search will lead me to believe that I’m on to something great. All I know is that once I’ve committed 30 minutes or more to an idea I’m much more likely to take the next step and put forth the effort to create a prototype.
We as individuals have a terrific power to scare ourselves silly with all of the doubts and whatifs that come immediately after we have a great idea. We become exhausted by all of the imaginary potential work and hurdles before we even get up from the lunch table or out of the shower. To combat this inertia all you have to do is accept that your idea could be good and start to examine it. Grow your idea into something that is tangible and then decide if you have the passion to take it forward. Start now.
Soldier On !