You and I are in the idea production business.
Sure, we may not carry a job title with the word “idea” in it, but if we peel away all of the specialties of what we do, we’ll find that most of us are in the business of formulating and acting on ideas—either ours or others. The better ideas we have or act on, the more successful we’ll be.
Early in my career, when I was making the shift from being a technical contributor into management, I remember being told in a management training class that I had to rethink the value of my new role. No longer should I go home and say my day was wasted, spent in meetings. If you’re a manager, that’s what you do.
The instructor went on. As you move up the ladder, he said, your value contribution changes. The CEO, for instance, can feel good about a day when he has an idea, because that idea can reshape a company or even an industry. That’s leverage on time well spent.
To be sure, not all ideas emanate from the top. Nevertheless, I’ve never forgotten the lesson. Ideas are value creators.
I’ve often asked myself at the end of a day, “What ideas did I have today?” My answer is not often very satisfying. And it’s not because the ideas I had weren’t good. It’s more often because I didn’t take the time to cultivate any.
Which got me to thinking… What opportunities might I have had to create something really exceptional if I wasn’t so deep in the weeds elsewhere? Or if I had set better boundaries to keep from being overloaded? Or if I were more intentional to guard my time to think creatively, rather than reacting impulsively to the next squeaky wheel?
Ideas are my job. And, personally, I don’t ever want to shut down my idea factory. That’s why several years ago, when it seemed that my idea factory was stressed under the weight of my many ventures, I had an idea.
What if, instead of dumping activities to get my idea factory back online, I remapped my entire work process instead? What if I got more intentional to rework how I work? What if I designed my work life with creative time built in, from the ground up?
What’s the cost of that missed idea? The world will never know.
Comment below: What steps do you take to keep your idea factory running?