What to Do when You Have an Idea
4 steps to turning your ideas into reality
According to Rod Serling, “Ideas come from the Earth. They come from every human experience that you either witness or have heard about translated into your brain in your own sense of dialogue in your own language form. Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized. Ideas are probably in the air like little tiny items of ozone. That’s the easiest thing on Earth is to come up with an idea. Then the second thing is the hardest thing on Earth is to put it down.”
Most people have had a great idea that has later showed up on an infomercial or in a store for sale. It’s not because someone stole the idea that it ends up there attributed to someone else. Instead, it happens because inventions are often thought of in different areas of the world at the same time. This is called “multiple discovery” or “simultaneous invention.”
Cracked sites five examples of simultaneous invention, including the following: Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz invented calculus at about the same time. Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray invented the telephone and ended up in the patent office on the same day. While Jonas Salk is credited for finding a vaccine to use against polio, Hilary Koprowski and Albert Sabin also created their own successful vaccines at nearly the same time with Sabin’s becoming preferred worldwide. There are many instances of inventions occurring around the same time, and some scientists suggest that it’s a human adaptation to ensure the species survives.
Regardless of why it happens, the important thing to get from this is that if you have an idea, you have to do something with it or risk losing it to someone else. The idea is important, in and of itself, but what you do with it may be even more important, for you personally and for the world at large. Here are some steps to taking that idea and putting it to work for you.
Make a Record
If you have a lot of ideas, you may need to write them down, record them digitally, or otherwise take note. Leonardo da Vinci kept his notes in code. Thomas Edison kept copious notes. If you have trouble keeping notes, Takeo Higuchi suggests using a method called the Idea Marathon. Write down at least one idea a day and score yourself: 0 points for one idea, 1 point for every idea above one, minus a point if you don’t come up with any ideas for the day.
Make a Decision
At the end of the week, you can pare the ideas down that you want to work on. If an idea eats at you, work on it first. When you choose the one that you have the most enthusiasm for, you’re more likely to turn it into reality.
In this day and age, people like to talk about their ability to multi-task. They do everything in a mediocre way and their attention is divided every minute of the day. Invention doesn’t work like that. Choose one project and work it to completion or you may run the risk of working on multiple projects and never getting one done, which is discouraging.
Author Mike Vardy suggests creating a mission statement to help you choose which ideas are worth pursuing. He then suggests looking at the ideas and the reality of your situation. You may have a great idea that will take a lot of time and resources that you don’t have. By taking stock of your situation and comparing it to your willingness to sacrifice and your interest in bringing a particular idea into the world, you can choose an idea that you’ll be able to complete in a satisfactory amount of time suited to your personality and skills. Keep in mind that Bill Gates believes that “most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
Make a Plan
You may not have all the information you need to complete a project. You may not have all the materials; you may not even know how to start. By making a plan of action, you can take a big idea and make it easier to accomplish. Write down what you know, what you need to know, what you have and what you need to get. According to Benjamin Franklin, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Make It Work
Once you have a plan, get started. Make the first mark on the paper or canvas, attach the first boards, do whatever it takes to get started. You may have to adjust on the fly, or change your methods midway through the project, but that’s part of the creative process. The hard part will be not giving up when something goes wrong or the original idea doesn’t work. That’s okay, be like Edison, who said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” and realize that you’ve gained valuable knowledge. Once it works, give yourself a reward and move on to the next idea. Or take your invention to the next level by getting it patented and finding a buyer or buyers.