Productivity: Idea Trees

Evolution can feel like a poetic justice, with the most evolved individuals surviving over the wonky failed organisms. In actuality, evolution is more of a bush. The survivors are no less special than the extinct specimens. The survival of species are based on many factors, the environment, the predators, luck, amongst them.

In the same way, a good idea is not necessarily better on its face than any other idea. There are many other fairly good ideas that could have worked, but for a variety of reasons didn’t. That said, you will only have a bad idea if you don’t work your way through many, many ideas. Just as the fossil records have scores more animals exinct that alive, a surviving idea should be matched by many ideas that have gone by the way side.

The idea tree is a tool I use to ideate in a productive and structured way. Basically, I use this tool to take me past the first flush of creativity and into the real work of design. I start with by first three ideas. Then use a gut feeling to ideate one of those ideas. I keep going for three rounds. Notice all of the ideas that have gone by the wayside. It doesn’t mean that my final idea is the end all and be all (just like the fact that humans are god’s gift), but this final idea is one that I have considered and reconsidered thoroughly.

Why is this a productivity tool? Despite being a popular tool, brainstorming without a framework can actually take you away from completing your work. You can go so blue sky that you fly away altogether. This method has helped me stay on task, particularly when I am feeling a little bit stuck. In the end, I end up with the best part of brainstorming (the creativity, ideation, excitement) and the best part of structured thinking (product-focused, checking off a task, moving towards the next step).