Often, the challenge isn't getting good, new ideas. It's hanging on to them long enough to do something about them! Today's guest article from Franis Engel addresses that very challenge.

Franis (@learncreativity on Twitter) thinks everyone is talented. She specializes in making complexities simple, innovating about how the Alexander Technique can be taught faster to groups. A high idea-producer, she can Twitter and tele-host simultaneously, and is planning a podcast series featuring the interesting secret geniuses she's collected as friends. You can find out more about her multi-talented adventures from the Big Island of HI and beyond at http://www.franis.org.

So here are five of Franis' great strategies for capturing more cool ideas before they simply disappear:

Why don't more people preserve their ideas and do something with them? Turns out expressions of futility are many.

One reason is there's a part of the brain that actively disregards what doesn't match expectations. Another part of the brain deletes the anomalies, since they don't match. What if these brain parts happen to be particularly active? Well, let's just say most people have an average of 45 seconds to get a good idea down before it goes “poof.” That's an average. Some people are on to the next thought much faster. So for them, it's not particularly possible to catch these fleeting possibilities.

That's where you come in. Someone who already knows the advantages of capturing great ideas can encourage a beginner at innovation to do the same for themselves by showing them how easy it is. For example:

  • To get ideas down more quickly, learn speed writing. EasyScript has only five rules, making it easy to learn and remember. Using it, I'm able to write, with pencil in hand, about as fast as someone can type. It's so much less intimidating when you're scribbling something while someone is talking. This means in a living room conversation, suddenly the person who's eloquent (but gets “microphone fever”) has the evidence you wrote down that makes it so.
  • Often, there's writing already going on; all that's needed is compiling it. What about those chats with such interesting links you trade back and forth? Skype collects these chats in its history. Just copy and compile them into a blog. We know that blogging isn't hard, but many people don't. Make it a private blog and invite them to share the editing.
  • Every answering machine has a “memo” feature. Learn to use it and transcribe later. Google Voice also has this feature; it spits out WAV file that gets sent to you by email.
  • What about collecting words that you hear people use in new ways or words that you've never heard before? A friend of mine started keeping a book thirty years ago of quotes from the interesting, funny, and notable things people he knew personally were saying. It's still amusing today. How much cooler it would be to tweet what your friends say than already published quotes! There are even services that compile your Twitter stream in various ways. You can start a #hashtag and Twapperkeeper will save them for you.
  • From a time when I rented a place from a misogynist landlord who used to regularly threaten me over the phone, I hit on the idea of collecting his insults. As I did, customer service departments found that collecting a list of complaints/excuses and celebrating the originals took the sting out of them, making them irreverently funny.

So, while you're writing down your own brilliant ideas, take some time to sing the praises of others. Even if they drop the baton you're passing, at least you've got another interesting collection to blog. - Franis Engel