Why an ideas journal is your best $2 investment

Why an ideas journal is your best $2 investment

Unfortunately, that's all I can remember of the idea. By the time I arrived - several songs later - I was still whistling, but had forgotten this idea. No amount of mental re-jigging or prompting could re-awaken this nugget, despite my best attempts. Eventually, I had to draft and submit this article, with the full knowledge that my most creative voice had not been heard.

Undoubtedly this is an all-too familiar feeling for you. You may have had a genius flash of inspiration while lying in bed - and then dozed off, wiping all traces of this moment. Perhaps you have been inspired by a quote or had an idea for an improvement to a process while away on holiday - but then forgotten it when you return home.

Our innovative ideas are one of the most valuable assets we own. These ideas can improve our lives, our careers and our world - in small and big ways. That is not an over-statement - your ideas have an immense value to them. Yet, often we treat our ideas like the last piece of gum - useful, but often forgetting where we put it - and when we come back to it, it's not quite as appealing as it was originally!

Most valuable items we store. We have a wallet for our money, a garage for our car and an external hard-drive for our computer. Where do you store your ideas?

One of the best ways is getting a basic journal or notebook from your local stationary shop.. Simple, cheap - but one of the best innovation investments you can make. Here's why.

1. A journal lets you capture ideas  

The most obvious purpose of the journal is this - no more missed ideas! By having a pocket-sized notebook at hand, you can easily jot down words, pictures or symbols that encapsulate your idea. This can follow you in the car, at your desk and to your bedside, ready to grab ideas as they come.

Leonardo da Vinci kept a journal throughout his life, extending to over 13,000 pages of his dreams, discoveries and ideas. A page of his shopping list flows into his idea for shoes that would enable the wearer to walk on water. Words and pictures fit together, giving a snap shot of da Vinci's mind - and stress the importance of journaling!

If someone with the creative genius of da Vinci recognised that he had to store his ideas, then so should we. As Rolf Smith said, "Ideas can come from anywhere at any time. The problem with making mental notes is that the ink fades very rapidly." Don't let your ideas disappear.

2. A journal lets your ideas develop

In many ways, ideas are like bread. They both need time to rise, develop and bake. Do it right - and you get a delicious loaf, that fills your home with a beautiful aroma. Rush the process, and you're left with a doughy mess that is better used for play-dough. It's the same with ideas.

Most ideas require more thinking, refining, critiquing and developing before they are all they can be. Although our mind is incredibly brilliant at playing with ideas, it is not so good at remembering what developments we have made - meaning that the journey is often forgotten - as well as crucial adaptations along the way.

Using an ideas journal is a brilliant way to continually develop your creative thoughts. When you are waiting for an appointment, riding on the bus or have five minutes of down time - a great habit to practice is to open your journal and review your ideas. Then, engage with them - with pencil in hand. Try and draw one of your old ideas. Run a value analysis on a dated concept. Apply an idea to a new situation.

Doing this with pencil and paper allows you to easily track your thoughts and also invites the brain to play with the ideas. Your creative doodling in your journal allows these ideas to flourish and become fully developed innovations.

3. A journal lets you combine ideas

In Frans Johansson's excellent book The Medici Effect, he writes... "In our world it actually makes sense to combine sea urchins with lollipops, guitar riffs with harp solos, and music records with airlines...this is how we break ground. This is how we innovate."

Johannson has popularised the notion of "Intersections" - the value of combining ideas from a range of fields to help create new concepts. Too much of our thinking is done in silos - what is needed is the merging of ideas to help bring about new innovations.

There are many classic examples - the iPhone (cell-phone meet music player), electric guitar (acoustic welcomes electricity) and Nike running shoes (rubber shoe and waffle iron) - but this is true with smaller, incremental innovations as well. Ideas about finance and accounting should be merged with new concepts about design, marketing and HR. It is in these combinations that breakthrough ideas occur.

4. A journal lets you share ideas

Doodling in a journal can lead to the serendipitous moments, when a stranger asks to know what you're working on - but these are the exception! More helpful is the journal works as a communication aid to assist you when you are trying to explain an idea in its early conception.

Often in these times we get tongue-tied, trying to make our eclectic thoughts simple and communicable, while still containing the excitement and potential of our idea. This often leads to confusion, bad first-impressions of the concept and can minimise creative partnerships. Having a journal lets you easily show other people the ideas you are working on, along with the images, maps and dreams that accompany them. These can act as a guide to assist your communication process, as well as serving as a visual aid that helps capture the imagination of many.

Four powerful reasons that a $2 investment could be one of the most valuable innovation spends you make. Will you take the plunge, buy a notebook and start this new habit?

Jeremy Suisted is an innovation consultant and trainer through Creativate and writes at www.jeremysuisted.com.