On filling notebooks with ideas

Too true to be funny. So many notebooks… inspiration to review them. And, then, act on the ideas!


From the amazing Austin Kleon.


Talking to the duck

This entry was triggered by Dan Pink’s ‘Pinkcast’. You can watch it here (it lasts 89 seconds).

duckWhere Dan uses his duck, I tend to use whiteboard… and this blog. Thinking out loud helps me to clarify my thinking. Summarising it in a doodle or short entry here, helps me to spot the wrinkles. Or, have them pointed out to me, which is fine.

Occasionally thinking out loud can backfire. A few years ago, I was working with some of my team at the whiteboard. I don’t remember what we were discussing. Shortly after the discussion, I was told that some of the newer team members had started to work on the issue. I was surprised and puzzled until a longer-serving team member told me that the newer person hadn’t realised that I had been thinking out loud at the whiteboard. From experience, she knew that the ideas would probably change, and that it was best to wait for my fingers to hit the keyboard before acting.

Of course, the problem wasn’t with thinking out loud. The problem was not being clear about what I was doing.

(Photo by MirelaSchenk on pixabay.com)

On sharing ideas

Scott Belsky’s mantra is:

It’s not about ideas; it’s about making ideas happen.

However, he also talks about sharing ideas liberally as part of a vetting process. Ideas are shared so that the worst ones can be dumped and the best ones can be enhanced.

This triggers some questions:

Are we brave enough to share our ideas – before they are ‘ready’ for public consumption?

Will we take responsibility to refine each other’s ideas?

Will we invest our time in helping others to succeed?

Am I prepared to be open AND generous? Isn’t that what the digital age is all about?p

The killer app: pen and paper

Even though I am making strenuous efforts to use less paper, I have to acknowledge that I still love using pen and paper (although I haven’t quite reverted to a quill… yet). I find that jotting my thoughts on paper helps to clarify my thinking.

Typically, I’ll start with an idea or a quotation. Then I’ll doodle a bit; let ideas flow; allow connections to emerge.

Most blog entries start in my ideabook (many end there too!).

I think that the slower pace of handwriting allows my brain to function differently. As a visual person, I like to see things spread out across the page (or on a whiteboard).

And, best of all, by carrying a pen and my ideabook I have limitless connectivity.

Here’s how I developed this entry:killer app

So many ideas

As I was flicking through my ideabook yesterday, I was struck by the ratio of ideas captured to ideas developed. Basically it’s

oodles: none

The lack of entries in this blog is clear evidence of the ‘none’ side of the equation.

so many ideas

Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to.

Tiffany Shlain


So where is my attention?

  • Am I allowing processing, function and transactions to squeeze out creativity?
  • Is throughput and productivity impeding reflection and learning?
  • Is busy-ness replacing impact?

The answer to all of these questions is ‘Yes’.

So what am I going to do about it?

Well, the first step is to implement Tiffany Shlain’s advice; to realise where my focus is and to adjust it accordingly. There are times when throughput and productivity matter, but that should not consume all of my time.

I need to tweak the balance between gathering/generating ideas and developing them. I’d like to aspire to the impact of Seth Godin and the depth of Maria Popova.

But the easiest measure of all is to monitor the frequency of entries here. This will serve as a barometer of my attention.


The importance of acceptance


I recently heard Frank Blake (former CEO of Home Depot) discussing the significance of this equation for ‘getting things done’ in an organisation.

q = the quality of an idea

a = the acceptance of the idea

e = the effectiveness of the idea

What struck me most was this seemingly simple equation is  that the acceptance factor is a mulitplier. This makes it the key to success.

A low level of acceptance for a high quality idea yields low effectiveness; a high level of acceptance for a low level idea may yield more effectiveness. Of course a combination of high/high is ideal.

As I ruminated on a couple of recent examples from work, it dawned on me that we are tempted to spend most of our time and energy on polishing the idea, to refine it, make it shiny and neat. However the return on investment would be far greater if some (most?) of that effort was put in to improving the acceptance of the idea – listening, adjusting, telling the story, selling the story.

Getting this equation right could be a game-changer, but first it must be a habit changer – and that isn’t as easy as abc or qae!

A good place to have a bad idea

I recently heard Austin Kleon speaking about journals/notebooks. One of the things that he said was:

Notebooks are a good place to have bad ideas.

I agree and that’s how I tend to use my notebook. But I discovered another good place to have bad ideas… in a conversation with a trusted and respected colleague. Yesterday at work I was talking to such a colleague and sharing my latest (daft) idea with her. She listened to what I had to say then told me why it was totally dopey. It was honest, appropriate and non-threatening, but robust enough to get her point across.

So from now on my ideas will mainly go into my notebook, but occasionally I’ll share them with others to test them out.