How to Save Your Best Ideas from Dying
Updated: Jul 13
Think about it; if you’d followed through on some of your great ideas, you’d probably be rich. You’re not alone. Common human traits prevent us from moving our great ideas forward. I’ve had a few ideas that became a billion-dollar business for someone else. If I had stuck with the idea, it could have been me. Instead, the idea died in my digital junk drawer, and I was left with the sting of what could have been.
As you first begin working on a big idea, you have enthusiasm from the potential to create something amazing. However, life can get hectic quickly. Everyday distractions can hinder and slow your progress, leaving your idea untouched so long that the original steam you were using to fuel it runs out. Many would assume that an idea couldn’t have been that great if it was so easily forgotten. That isn’t the case.
I came to a brutal realization; it was my fault that many of my big ideas died. I wasn’t progressing them past their early stages. Somehow, they fell from the front of my mind to the back and then forgotten. This dawned on me when I realized I owned over 60 website domain names. Each represented an idea I once thought was big. Renewing a domain name costs money, yet I was unwilling to lose any of them. How is it that my forgotten untouched ideas are still so precious that I’m willing to pay a yearly fee for each one? And why have I not done more with them?
Resistance and Friction
Two forces are actively stalling your ideas: resistance and friction. Resistance naturally builds as an idea is refined. Before you feel the resistance kicking in, you’re thinking is mostly fantasy. You are excited by the potential of the idea, making it seem rosy and exciting. As you work, you must address real-world challenges. Your idea becomes more daunting. It begins to feel more like a burden than an exciting adventure. The natural growing resistance is then compounded by friction.
Friction comes from your tools and how you work. As you continue to work on your big idea, it gets harder to keep track of it all. If you’ve been disorganized up to this point, the resulting friction will make it even harder to push through the resistance of a maturing idea. It is hard to make progress if you can’t quickly resume where you left off or find a key part you are inspired to work on.
Resistance from the complexities of a growing idea plus the friction of bad tools and organization lead to abandoning ideas and abandon ideas are dead ideas.
Growing Burdens and Slowing Progress
As ideas grow, so do their burdens. Creative endeavors are exciting, but their practical elements become harder to work with as it evolves into just that—work. You are at risk of losing engagement with the idea. It feels more like a strenuous exercise than a fun, creative endeavor. You find excuses to postpone working on your idea’s problems. If you put off the work for too long, the problems seem bigger and harder to fix than they truly are. You lose touch with what initially excited you about the idea. The idea eventually goes stale and is forgotten and dies despite holding so much potential.
Many experts would tell you to break tasks up into smaller chunks and chip away at those chunks regularly. Not all organizational tools facilitate this well. Traditional documentation tools don’t accommodate human tendencies. They assume you are an unstoppable robot, and that page (or sheet, or slide) number 99 is just as enjoyable for you to work on as the first.
A new tool is needed that is engaging and allows you to work on whatever happens to be top-of-mind and exciting and gives you a view of where your current efforts fit in the grand scheme of your idea.
Don’t Let Your Big Ideas Become Dead Ideas
Dreaming up big ideas can have some incredible benefits if they can be fully developed. So far, I have only discussed the challenges in developing them but don’t think that the process must end up being wasted time and energy. Ideas are exciting, and their potential is motivating—that’s why we continue to create them. The key is staying engaged with an idea, which calls for something more compelling than spreadsheets, slides, docs, or notebooks.
Harnessing innovation, inspiration, and passion with a sustainable approach that keeps you engaged will help prevent ideas from dying. Making an idea grow is up to you and how you support it.
Ideas need a place…
To live. Sustainable momentum forward is the only way to see an idea through to its full potential.
To be cultivated. Any problems or issues that arise must be addressed and tended to.
To be refined. Revisit your ideas to fine-tune their rough edges.
To have ongoing attention. Your ideas will get better as you revisit them with a fresh perspective.
To have a nursery where they will not die.
But that place hasn’t existed before…
Previously, creative people have had these resources to store and develop their great ideas:
Notebooks. They can either get lost and forgotten or broken up among the pages they were initially written on. Adding and editing are cumbersome.
Digital documents, spreadsheets, and slides. These can get buried, forgotten, disassociated with each other, and usually only represent a piece of the idea.
Whiteboard. Whiteboard notes get messy and cramped quickly, and you then need to capture it in another form before it gets erased.
The preferred solution will keep your idea whole, structured, and connected. You would have easy access to everything associated with your idea, such as spreadsheets, slides, images, websites, etc.
A Nursery for Your Ideas
Earlier, I mentioned some drawbacks of traditional methods for organizing ideas. Something new is needed to act as a nursery that will help you interact with them so they grow. Interacting with your ideas consistently will help see them through to completion. These interactions should be:
Engaging. You must feel like you’re progressing and accomplishing things even when faced with challenges. You should feel encouraged as you see your ideas blossom.
Memorable. It must be memorable enough for you to engage with it regularly, or it will get lost in the shuffle of life.
Accessible. You should be able to work on your idea anywhere, even if you wish to make a quick note.
Flexible. Change and adaptation are required to evolve your idea from its flawed early stages.
Harvestable. All the input needs to result in a highly usable and productive output.
Contextually interconnected. Everything must be coherent, even if you’re using different documents, spreadsheets, or slides for your idea.
I started Scapehop to build a nursery for ideas. I wanted to build an app that would bring everything together, eliminating the pitfalls of traditional organizational methods. This app would let me work on my ideas no matter where I was, without losing sight of the big picture. It had to be accessible; I needed it to be available on all my devices. And I needed the process of “working” the idea to be more fun. That way, my engagement with an idea would increase and help the idea survive. The app is Mind Mapping 3D for Android and iOS. It is FREE to try so that you can create and grow your ideas. Hopefully, it will help you create your next big idea and not have to see what could have been through someone else’s success. I wish you well in growing your idea and keeping it alive!
But no matter what approach you choose to use…
Make sure it helps you to take your ideas beyond daydreams.