Making Ideas Stick

This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information may no longer be current.

We had a conversation with a brilliant CEO who shared his frustration at trying to keep track of the many business ideas that constantly race through his head. He was certain that he was losing good opportunities before he could capture his thoughts.

We’ve seen this challenge in many entrepreneurs and senior managers who spend long days buried in emails, voice mails and meetings. Finding the time for a structured planning session with their management teams is challenging enough; capitalizing on spontaneous thinking is next to impossible! Yet we have all experienced that some of our best ideas come when we’re not consciously looking for them.

A few years ago, we were coaching a senior marketing manager who was struggling with this issue. We handed her a 3×3 sticky note pad that fit easily into her notebook or pocket and suggested that every time an idea popped into her head, she write it down. Since her quarterly team meeting was coming up, we instructed her entire team to follow the same practice – record their rapid fire ideas on how to improve their stalled market share on a sticky note pad as they thought of them.

The rules were simple: don’t dismiss any thoughts or notions; just write them down. Don’t edit or censor. Even the crazy ideas can be built upon by the rest of the team.

When the group assembled for their quarterly meeting, they stuck all their notes on a wall then began grouping them into similar threads looking for themes. Through the physical process of posting and grouping the notes, they shared some great (and wild) ideas, laughed a lot, and came up with some novel approaches that hadn’t been considered before. In the end, everyone had contributed to the planning process and they left their meeting with three solid projects to pursue.

Writing down your thoughts captures good ideas and stimulates further thought. Make it a habit, whether you use paper and pen or an app. But when it comes time to pool your ideas with others, in our experience, the process of physically touching each idea and manually moving sticky notes around on a wall generates useful interaction that’s not easy to replicate electronically.

Business is a contact sport. This is one great tactile way to capture your ideas and make them “stick.”