IDEMA — A Framework For Capturing & Sustaining Ideas.

Ideate > Discover > Execute > Maintain > Audit

12 min readMar 30, 2016
Last Updated 9/23/2019

An Introduction To IDEMA

IDEMA (Ideate > Discover > Execute > Maintain > Audit) is a problem-solving structure that helps organize business and life. It guides the creation process for making a living blueprint for your project, department, company, or life.

It was conceived by Jason Montoya, Len Wikberg, and Beth Haun in a desperate attempt to keep a good project manager at Noodlehead Marketing as we explored the lifecycle of projects.

The Benefits Of IDEMA

  • Operating within the IDEMA framework gives us context for ideas and activities.
  • It causes us to think about how to sustain ideas before bringing them to life.
  • IDEMA adds enough tension to refine ideas and projects but minimizes friction in moving them forward.
  • It helps us get the right people in the right places doing the right actions.
  • IDEMA is a framework to organize life & business in a spreadsheet, Trello, Airtable, Basecamp, or any other preferred tool.

With the provided framework as creative commons, we encourage you to take the system and add more details, steps, & sub-processes.

Keep it simple or make it complex, the decision is yours.

When Is It Best To Start Using IDEMA?

The following indicators determine if IDEMA would be a good fit for you to test.

  • You’re the leader of an organization or department seeking to bring order to chaos.
  • You’re part of a team working together on a project or department.
  • You’re an individual with numerous responsibilities in different stages of the process.
  • You’re a freelancer or consultant overseeing or managing numerous responsibilities for your clients.
  • You’re not able to retain a quality project manager.
  • You operate with a similar system in your head but your team is not on the same wavelength.
  • You value how getting the idea out of your head documents the true value of what you’re doing.
  • You don’t want to memorize what needs to get done and when.
  • You’d like the visibility of what work is being done.
  • You lose or forget ideas.
  • You value having a common language.

So What Is The IDEMA Framework?

Every idea has a place. Where does it now belong?

  1. Ideate. Capture Our Idea.
  2. Discover. Establish Intentions & Plan to Sustain.
  3. Execute. Start, Finish & Prepare to Maintain.
  4. Maintain. Sustain Our Idea.
  5. Audit. Determine Our Assessed Idea’s Fate.

Challenge & Commit To Our Idea Before Moving From One Stage To The Next.

How To Know If IDEMA Will Work For You

We’ve introduced IDEMA, its benefits, when to use it, and the framework itself. If you’re still wondering if IDEMA can help you or your organization, let us take you through a few questions to help you know if IDEMA is right for you.

  • When you have an idea, what do you do with it? Is there a place where these ideas go to wait?
  • When you have an idea you’d like to get done, do you skip the planning phase and go straight to execution? Do you look back on past projects and wish you’d thought about them differently before moving forward?”
  • Do you find yourself planning an idea forever? Do you have a trigger to push your idea forward?
  • Do you find yourself starting and launching many new ideas with little or no consideration for how you’ll keep those ideas going?
  • Do you have too many activities or responsibilities? Do you feel vocationally bloated? Are change and innovation slow or non-existent?
  • Do you have a framework that pulls all of these stages together into one cohesive structure?

If these questions reveal gaps in your operation, IDEMA is a framework that can help you take your life and business to a state of clarity and accountability.

Inspired to take the next step? If so, join us as we explore using IDEMA with three different tools.

Examples Of An IDEMA Blueprint Used In Trello, Airtable & A Spreadsheet

A benefit of using the IDEMA framework is that the process can be used in a variety of tools and in different ways. We’ve put together three examples of its use in three well-known tools.

An Example Of Trello Using IDEMA As A Workflow

A free and flexible tool to organize anything, IDEMA is a terrific fit for Trello. Below is a screenshot of three lists in my Trello work board.

To use IDEMA in Trello, simply create a list for each stage of the framework. This would result in a list for Ideate, Discover, Execute, Maintain, and Audit.

When new ideas come, we simply capture them in the Ideate column. This acts as an idea repository.

As the idea progresses through the IDEMA stages, we simply move the card in Trello from one list to the next.

For the maintenance stage, we’ve found it helpful to create multiple lists based on the interval. In this screenshot, you can see maintenance lists for daily, weekly, monthly, annually, triggered, and parked ideas.

If you prefer to use IDEMA on a personal level, Trello and IDEMA can be a great combo for organizing your life as seen in this screenshot.

Click here to view and make a copy of the Trello template board.

The IDEMA Framework Also Integrates Into Airtable

If you value the interface of a spreadsheet but want the power of a database, Airtable & IDEMA may be perfect harmony. In this example, we’ve got a marketing campaign where each element of the campaign’s stage is visible.

The power of Airtable is our ability to sort, filter and create custom views of this data. If we only want to see ideas in the Ideate stage, our idea repository, we create a view as we see in the following screenshot.

Instead of tracking projects, you could track people applying for a position. The IDEMA framework would quickly and easily identify where they are in the process.

View and copy the IDEMA Airtable Template.

Use IDEMA in a Spreadsheet

Do you prefer to keep it simple? A spreadsheet can be a quick and easy way to organize your company, department, and project in the IDEMA framework.

In the screenshot above, we can see various projects on our plate and where they are in the IDEMA process.

Click here to view and download the spreadsheet template.

How To Transition Into The IDEMA Framework

Once we’ve identified our tool, we can transition to IDEMA from the beginning or middle of a project/company. Below are directions on how to approach both situations.

Scenario 1: Starting From The Beginning

If you are starting a new project, company, or activity, simply capture your ideas in the Ideate stage. When you’re ready to establish intent and plan out the idea, move the idea from the Ideate to Discover stage and follow the framework at the desired pace to create a blueprint of what’s going on.

Scenario 2: Transitioning from chaos or a different framework

If you are in the middle of a chaotic project or using a different system, simply capture and list the projects and ideas in their most appropriate stage.

Once we have everything we’re working on in place within IDEMA, we have a vision of our situation and how to move each activity forward. Once complete, we’ll find ourselves with a blueprint containing actions, projects, and ideas in all five stages of IDEMA.

Move forward on these projects accordingly.

IDEMA Resources, History & Contact Information

While IDEMA is a simple framework, we know you’ll take and personalize it for your own context. The possibilities for it are endless.

To help you utilize IDEMA and explore it in a more detailed way, we’ve compiled several resources for you to embrace and expand on the IDEMA framework. Below you can download the framework logo and IDEMA templates, contact the creators, learn the IDEMA history, and take a deeper dive into the Ideation and Discover stages of the IDEMA framework.

IDEMA Is Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This empowers you to copy, share, redistribute, remix, transform, and build upon the IDEMA framework for any purpose, even commercially.

When referencing IDEMA, simply share the link to this page.

Click Here To Download The IDEMA Framework Logo Files For Use In Your IDEMA Projects

IDEMA Templates

Contact IDEMA’s Three Creators.

IDEMA History

Books With IDEMA

The following books include mentions and explorations of the IDEMA Framework. Have you written a book that includes the IDEMA framework? Let Jason know and we’ll discover the idea of including it on the following list.

Resources For…


VIDEO: How to Come Up With a Creative Idea in 3 Simple Steps Daniel Lubetzky

TOOL: Stormboard —Online Brainstorming & Collaboration

TOOL: Seenapse — Inspiration Engine

VIDEO: Where good ideas come from by Steven Johnson

VIDEO: How To Get Your Ideas To Spread by Seth Godin

BLOG: How idea adoption works — The Idea Progression by Seth Godin

PODCAST: Your Head Is Not For Holding Ideas (With David Allen)

VIDEO: What does an infinite-minded company look like? | Q+A (Simon Sinek)


VIDEO: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

VIDEO: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! By Ernesto Sirolli

BLOG: 8 Leadership Lessons From A Symphony Conductor by Michael Hyatt

BLOG: The Hierarchy of Success by Seth Godin

BLOG: The Formula For Intentionality by Jason Montoya


VIDEO: The Puzzle Of Motivation By Dan Pink

BLOG: How To Get Your Big Idea Off The Ground By Michael Hyatt

BLOG: Vision Pulls Us To The Finish Line With Nothing Else Will by Jason Montoya

PODCAST: Why Doing Less Is The Best Way To Do More by Michael Hyatt

BLOG: The 4 Disciplines of Execution by David Cummings

BLOG: A Project Gone Terribly Wrong by Jason Montoya

PODCAST: Here’s Why All Your Projects Are Always Late — and What to Do About It | Freakonomics


PODCAST: In Praise of Maintenance By Stephen J. Dubner Of Freakonomics

ARTICLE: Hail The Maintainers by Andrew Russell & Lee Vinsel

PODCAST: The Power of Habit With Charles Duhigg

BLOG: Of Course It’s Difficult…by Seth Godin

ARTICLE: How Learning To Delegate Can Transform Our Businesses by Jason Montoya

BLOG: Habits, Making and Breaking by Seth Godin

BLOG: How To Maintain A Life Worth Living By Jason Montoya

TOOL: Process Street — Simple Process Workflow Management


BLOG: The Audit Stage — Continue, Change or Stop? By Jason Montoya

BLOG: Ask the Start, Stop, and Continue Questions by David Cummings

ARTICLE: Seven Strategies for Simplifying Your Organization By Ron Ashkenas

BLOG: (Personal Auditing) What Happens When You Focus On The Right Things, and It Gets Worse? by Jason Montoya

PDF: Free Printable Worksheet to Help You Simplify Your Life With Frameworks by Sage Grayson

ARTICLE: (Spiritual Auditing) Living Simply — Yet Focused By Oswald Chambers

A Deeper More Detailed Use Of IDEMA

If you find the IDEMA framework too simple, the following modules provide more steps to make IDEMA a more detailed process. Our hope is these modules will inspire you to alter or build your own.

To use these, simply place these modules into the relevant stage’s workflow for completing the stage. These questions take the framework to a deeper level and require more depth before an idea can proceed from one stage to the next.

Recommended Modules For The Ideate Stage

Ideate Module 1 — Idea Anatomy: We’ve documented the least information necessary to harness the idea.

Suggested Module Questions

  • Describe the idea
  • What caused the idea?
  • Whose authority does this idea fall under?
  • Who will move this idea forward?
  • How urgent is this idea’s potential?

Ideate Module 2 — Idea Checkpoint: We’ve thoroughly challenged discovering this idea.

Suggested Module Questions

  • Does this idea already exist?
  • Are there any existing efforts to fill this gap/solve this problem?
  • What would prevent us from discovering the idea?
  • Can this idea live within the objectives/restrictions of existing authorities?
  • What would keep the idea from moving forward?
  • By when shall we discover the idea’s potential?

Recommended Modules For The Discover Stage

Discover Module 1 — Context: We’ve discovered the idea’s relevant context.

Suggested Module Questions

  • What is the origin of this idea?
  • The potential payoffs are what?
  • What resources do we have available for this idea?
  • What roadblocks would delay or stop this idea from moving forward?
  • What else do we know about this idea?

Discover Module 2— Firm Foundations: We’ve firmly anchored this idea’s intent.

Suggested Module Questions

  • Purpose: Why are we doing this idea?
  • Vision: What result do we think it will generate?
  • Truth: The purpose and vision statements are based on what?
  • What guidelines will we adhere to?
  • What ingredients need to be included?

Discover Module 3— Solution Discovery: We’ve surveyed & chosen our best solutions.

Suggested Module Questions

  • What possibilities will help us live our purpose & fulfill our vision?
  • Who would be a good resource for this project? Where would they best fit?
  • What else do we need to research before moving forward?

Discover Module 4— Plan To Execute: We’ve outlined the actions for executing this idea.

Suggested Module Questions

  • What actions need to happen for this project? What are their due dates?
  • Who will own the responsibility for the completion of the project’s execution?
  • Who will be responsible for moving the project actions forward?
  • What triggers will we have for communication updates?
  • What triggers would pause the project?
  • Where will the progress of this project be tracked?

Discover Module 5 — Plan To Maintain: We’ve identified what’s required to maintain this idea.

Suggested Module Questions

  • What actions will be required to maintain this idea? How often will they need to be done?
  • Who will make decisions on the project’s maintenance?
  • Who will be responsible for moving the maintenance actions forward?

Discover Module 6— Plan To Audit: We’ve considered how & when we’d like to audit this idea.

Suggested Module Questions

  • What audit actions do we foresee at this time? When will they need to be done?
  • What will we track to determine if we’re progressing or regressing?
  • Who will own the responsibility for the project’s audit?
  • Who will be responsible for moving the audit actions forward?

Discover Module 7— Discover Checkpoint: We’ve thoroughly challenged executing this idea.

Suggested Module Questions

  • Why proceed? Why not proceed?
  • Is this idea important? Is it urgent?
  • Understanding the entire picture, would it be wise to move forward?

Now Go Make Your Idea Happen!

Credits & Special Thanks


Thank You

  • A special thanks to James Karwish, Samuel Rasmussen, and Beth Haun for providing feedback on how to make this IDEMA page better.




IDEMA is a framework for capturing & sustaining ideas. Ideate > Discover > Execute > Maintain > Audit