Someone brilliantly remarked,
“A fool with a pencil is smarter than a genius without one.”
I was reminded of the importance of capturing ideas during a lunchtime conversation with a high level executive of a leading car manufacturer. During our coaching time, he confided that several years earlier he had a genius solution to a challenge facing the company. In his mind, he not only envisioned the solution, but also outlined the strategic steps for its implementation. The only problem: he did not write it down and could no longer recall his genius!
Here is the strategy that has improved my leadership and coaching:
make your thoughts visible
This may simply mean writing ideas in outline form. I have spent over 30 years keeping a journal and writing down my thoughts and ideas. I have experienced what Earl Nightingale said, “Ideas are elusive, slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away.”
In Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius, Michalko highlights the value of tools such as diagrams, mind mapping and charts to capture and make thoughts visible.
Diagrams can add to understanding of a problem, how to approach it, and what might be missing or unclear. Having to concentrate on drawing a diagram can force more concrete thinking and help crystallize ideas. “When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.” [Michael LeBoeuf]
Mind mapping is a new brainstorming tool I have begun to use. This has been especially useful in teams or small groups. I used mind mapping for the development and design of a social media class I co-taught. For an explanation of mind mapping, go to MindTools.
Charts help in the retention of ideas. I have been on the receiving end as other leaders have made their thoughts visible to me. Their drawings are etched in my mind and help me recall the conversation. Using the strategy of making thoughts visible, I can do the same for my teams or leaders that I am coaching.
What do you use to capture ideas? How does making thoughts visible help us in leading?