27 September 2023

Catching and keeping your best ideas

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So many of our great ideas are fleeting and forgotten in the midst of a busy life. Michelle Gibbings* suggests ways they can be captured and stored for future use.

Sometimes ideas come quickly, and at other times they can be harder to find.

Sometimes it can feel like there are too many ideas, and other times, not enough.

At other times, ideas can feel like they have escaped you.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert characterises ideas as having ‘consciousness’ and ‘will’.

To her, ideas are driven by a single impulse — to come to life.

She writes: “The only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.

“It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.

“Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners.”

The thought of conceptualising ideas like this may feel like a stretch.

However, there’s no doubt that ideas swirl around, and sometimes you can miss them.

Perhaps you’ve read an article or purchased something and thought: “I had the idea to do that”, yet your idea didn’t come to life.

It can help to consider where and when you source your best ideas, so you are giving idea-generation the attention it deserves.

You can group idea-generation into four key themes — Create, Collaborate, Collect and Critically Think — each of which spawns a multitude of activities you can use to aid your idea-generation.


Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes.

We all have creative forces within us.

It’s about giving yourself time and tapping into it.

Structure your week so that you are frequently doing something new.

It can be as simple as taking a new route to work or reading a book from a different genre.

It can be playing a new game or sport.

While routines and habits are helpful, you don’t want everything you do every day (or week) to be the same.

There’s a reason why many of our best ideas come to the fore when we are relaxed.

You need to give your brain time to wonder and ponder.

Daydreaming isn’t a waste of time.

We rejuvenate when we are in nature, so bathe yourself in the beauty and awe of the natural environment.

Sit. Listen. Be still.

You may be amazed at what arises.


We learn from others.

Don’t limit yourself to learning from people you see as ‘like you’.

You want to go for depth and breadth.

Try reverse mentoring, where you swap the traditional mentee and mentor roles.

Young people are often not as burdened by convention and are more willing to ask the so-called (but often not) ‘dumb question’.

They will raise issues you may not see because they view the world differently.

They are also an excellent data source if you want to keep up to date with the latest trends, shifts in consumer behaviour and technology platforms.

People often think about diversity in terms of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation and age, but it also extends to how people think and decide.

Surround yourself with people who have different experiences to share.

Their experiences can challenge your assumptions and spark new ideas.


Ideas are all around us, and they take time to germinate.

Ideas are often pieced together from fragments of information from different sources.

It’s the connection of those random ideas or unstructured thoughts that, in time, prove invaluable.

It’s essential to have a process of collecting and storing data and information that may, in time, prove useful.

Set up processes for sourcing information.

Use curating tools such as Pocket and Google Alerts and then store the information in a readily available way — for example, Evernote or OneNote.

Ideas can be based on an invention, an improvement on an existing product or service, or an adaptation of what currently exists.

Look around you and see what’s missing, what’s working and what could be improved.

Critically think

Economist, John Maynard Keynes once said: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

Deep thinking takes time and in a busy world where you rush from meeting to meeting and event to event, you may not be giving yourself enough time.

You need a dedicated space to think, ponder, reflect and analyse so ideas can germinate and flourish.

Finding that time doesn’t happen by accident.

It takes deliberate planning and conscious thought.

It’s dreaming and imagining possibilities.

It’s recognising the value that stems from what on the outside can appear like doing nothing.

Leadership that is fit for the future is about unlearning, adapting and learning.

Leaders need people around them who challenge how they think and, consequently, help disrupt their default thinking patterns.

It also requires a willingness to recognise that you never have all the answers.

As author, Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr Seuss) said: “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”

*Michelle Gibbings is a Melbourne-based change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared atwww.changemeridian.com.au.

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